“Muslim punk rockers” The Kominas
by Prop Anon
Bastards of Young, a punk rock road documentary, recently released by filmmakers Rakesh Baruah and Marcus Ricci, is 60 minutes of raucous action narrated by the poets of the future. A movie like theirs could not have come at a better time than in today’s angry and confused cultural landscape. For three weeks in August 2009, Baruah and Ricci rolled their cameras nonstop as they followed three unique musical voices on their nationwide US tour. What they captured was all the mayhem and chaos such a cross-country tour manifests. When that tour involves a group of “Muslim punk rockers,” a Sufi dance rock virtuoso and an Anarchistic Hip-Hop artist the outcome makes this documentary worth watching.
The Kominas were formed in 2005 when Basim Usmani gave his friend Shahjehan Khan a cassette tape that read ‘Punk 101.’ Shaj quickly adapted his guitar playing style from classic rock to the infectious grooves of bands like The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Damned, NOFX, The Misfits, and the two began crafting their own brand of Punk. The Kominas wrote a couple song and threw them up on their myspace account, little did they know that they were about to tap into a cultural Zeitgeist. Why? They were singing about their experience growing up as Pakistani Americans raised by Muslim parents and the struggles they faced in their experience as young Americans. Luckily, they were funny and their highly ironic lyrics followed in the tradition of all the best punk rock has to offer. Based off two myspace songs the band received an absurd amount of media attention, and as they grew as a band they continually faced the criticism that they were handed something they did not yet earn. Most bands spend years in the trenches before receiving any attention, but for the Kominas this was different and they were willing to prove their detractors wrong. Over the next few years they were joined by Imran Malik, on drums, and Arjun Ray on guitar, and they created their first album ‘Wild Nights in Guantanamo Bay;’ released in 2008. By the time of the 2009 tour, The Kominas were ready to prove all detectors wrong and show and prove that they were constantly evolving musicians with a vital perspective needing to be heard. The future of America may just depend upon it.
Bastards of Young reveals the struggles faced while on a D.I.Y. nationwide tour embarked on by musicians hungry to speak their minds. In 2009, I was nearing the completion of my first album Squat the Condos, a Hip-Hop record that was calling attention to the rapidly increasing price of everyday life in cities like New York. My song Luxury Condos epitomized of that message. Sarmust, aka Omar Waqar, played his Sufi dance indie rock with an intensity that made instant fans. His songs addressed topics like partition, hate crimes, and rocking the fuck out.
This film does an excellent job chronicling the mad road driving men ahead when facing the perils of physical injury, malnutrition, and no sleep to reveal the joyful nature at the heart of all great music. Since 2009, the Kominas have evolved their sound and continue to tour to growing audiences. Me, I’m just trying to pay rent, but I won’t give up on the music. Watching this documentary makes me want to hang out with all these guys. Oh snap, I did! Well, I’m real glad I did.
Bastards of Young documents friendships made under the rubric of punk rock and Hip-Hop. Friendship is one of the themes explored within, and the fun times that can be had when people put friendship before all else within the music industry. Baruah and Ricci are talented filmmakers and their movie adroitly translates the excitement of music and the open road. The statement is clear: counterculture is not locked away in online nihilistic holes spewing venom and crying for an America that never existed. The counterculture is on the road, making friends, having fun and challenging hatred. Bastards of Young demonstrates that America’s hope resides in the people making a place for themselves while making room for others. This is Punk Rock, this is Hip-Hop, this is America, and this is the future.
PROP ANON is the author of the upcoming Chapel Perilous: The Life and Thought Crimes of Robert Anton Wilson, the first official biography of the late counterculture philosopher. Prop Anon started his career as a Hip-Hop artist whose 2010 album Squat the Condos presaged the Occupy movement. In 2014, Prop switched musical gears and released a Stoner Rock album called HAIL ERIS! with his band, HAIL ERIS!