Tag Archives: taqwacore

pop culture & media research

Auf Deutsch? My Taqwacore Documentary Program Notes at Norient Festival

Back in October, Thomas Burkhalter sent out a call for music documentaries to be screened at the second annual Norient Music & film Festival on the Society of Ethnomusicology Listserv (SEM-L). I wrote back with an enthusiastic recommendation for Omar Majeed’s 2009 documentary film Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam. Thomas immediately responded explaining that the festival programming committee had already booked the film. In the same email, he invited me to contribute a one-page program note to introduce the film and the bands covered in the documentary. I happily agreed.

Several weeks ago, after I came back from SEM (at which I presented my paper about mapping The Kominas’ digital diaspora), I composed a short essay based on some of my notes used in an introductory remark about The Taqwacores (Eyad Zahra’s feature length based on Mike Knight’s book The Taqwacores) screening at the Virginia Film Festival. I wrote my program note in English; and Thomas translated it into German. The essay is now posted. Here’s the article (auf Deutsch!) for those of you German readers out there. And for those you are fluent more so in English than in German. [And if you live anywhere near Switzerland, you should go check out the film at the Festival in January 2011!]

Having had the opportunity to get to know Omar Waqar and the members of The Kominas, I’ve come to feel a collective urgency in writing responsibly as a way to undo some of the earlier bad journalistic coverage of the bands involved in the nascent taqwacore scene. Academic writing takes centuries to move forward. Besides my analysis of The Kominas’ musical works in my dissertation, I have engaged myself in various non-academic taqwacore-related projects.

Norient is a collective of writers and ethnographers, loosely associated with academia, who contribute text and media documentation of the world’s fringe musical life beyond textbook terms and definitions. Thanks to Thomas for the opportunity to write on behalf of Norient. I look forward to collaborating with Norient in the future.

pop culture & media research

The Kominas Play to the Wilderness of North America

What do I know about the Kominas? They are talented musicians with chops for concocting anthemic songs. As people, they’re individuals of immense passion for humanity. As punk rockers, they play music to defy social expectations, embrace the abject, and challenge global and local status quo.

I first met the members of the Kominas at a diner near South Station in Boston this past May. Bassist Basim Usmani threw his arms open to welcome me. Quickly our interview morphed into a party as the other band members and friends joined in. Beyond a typical “this-is-who-we-are”-kind-of discussion, our conversation was substantiated by their astute commentary on media, politics, and their impact on the Kominas and the “Muslim punk” scene associated with Michael Muhammad Knight’s book The Taqwacores.

Since their first “taqwa-tour” in 2007, the Kominas have created new musical directions and social connections. This summer, the band wrote a new song “Blackout Beach” for Waterboard, a play about torture. Crossing the genre lines, the Kominas performed in collaboration with hip-hop duo the M-Team and slam-poet Amir Sulaiman. In the midst of their recent national tour with Sarmust, they cut up a track with Brooklyn hip-hop freestyler Propaganda Anonymous. The tour ended last Saturday. The Kominas are now in studio working on a new qawwali-punk cover of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s song “I Will Worship You My Love.”

Besides reclaiming what it means to be a South-Asian fusion punk band from the Boston suburbs, the Kominas have been busily building a community of like-minded artists and friends. Usmani said that the band aims to form “solidarity with all people of color, reaching out to those in the wilderness of North America.”

Meeting the Kominas


This post was originally posted on August 19, 2009 on SPINearth.

pop culture & media research

Memories from the Fourth: The Kominas Collaborate with Like-Minded Hip Hop Artists

I’m still blown away by the memories and sounds left over from that night.

I had the privilege to partake of the intense collaborative moments between the Boston-based Kominas and their para-Muslim-identified compatriot hip hop acts The M-Team and Amir Sulaiman. The event was “the 4th of July New Muslim Cool Screening, Jam Session and BBQ.” An offshoot of the annual meeting of ISNA (Islamic Society of North America), this even took place at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church in northwest Washington DC.

Omar Waqar (of Sarmust and Diacritical) played a solo set pouring forth radiant love from his Sufi-inspired lyrical outcry. Basim Usmani came on stage and said, “there is the New Muslim Cool. But some people say that we are the ‘new Muslim bad.” The Kominas had a different lineup that evening with Basim and Shahjehan Khan on bass and guitar, respectively, and Imran Malik on drums. They blasted the church auditorium with spiritual blasphemy. “Par Desi” and “Sharia Law in the U.S.A.” resounded. The Kominas hardcore fans skanked, slam-danced. I spotted some taqwa-converts in the audience.

The Kominas then collaborated with the Brooklyn-based Latino Muslim hip hop duo The M-Team (featured in PBS documentary New Muslim Cool) and the saintly poet Amir Sulaiman from Atlanta. The Kominas backed up the MC’s providing intense live instrumental sounds. The members of the M-Team took turns rhyming contestational words about politics around faith and race. Sulaiman then took center stage pronouncing heavyweight words about spiritual battles and social unrest. The evening ended on an emotional highpoint. A congregation full of social misfits, however defined, shared and expressed life’s discontentment while swaying, dancing, hollering, throwing fists in the air all enveloped within a spiritual cacophony. The spirit was triumphant; the music elated.

Omar Waqar

Imran Malik

Shahjehan Khan

Amir Sulaiman

Basim Usmani

The M-Team

More from this photo set.


This post was originally posted on July 31, 2009 on SPINearth.