Musical Musings: A selfish introduction, and Muslim punk
Greetings, casual reader, and welcome to Musical Musings, the new blog for me, the arts editor of the Reflector. I say “for me” because, well…let me start from the beginning.
I’m a huge music nerd. Almost frighteningly so. Ask anyone who knows me, and they will most likely tell you about how I have bored them for hours on end talking about various musical eccentricities and other random facts no regular-minded person gives two shits about. The amount of faces I have witnessed slowly slacking due to lack of interest, the amount of “is he still going on about this?!” eye-rolls directed towards me…I can tell you, I have seen my fair share.
But I can’t stop. Why? Because, frankly, I love being a music nerd. It’s the tops. Just like how many people get their jollies researching the latest cheat codes for their new Playstation game, I can’t get enough of logging onto the web or cracking open a book and finding out everything there is to know about the band/artist I’m currently listening to. It gives me a rush; not because this information will make me necessarily smarter than the av-er-age bear, but because I truly enjoy learning new things about an art form that has shaped my life. This isn’t limited to biographical information about the individual band members, although that’s also nice to know. I also love reading about the circumstances that surround the making of music: how Joe Strummer and Mick Jones were squatting in Jones’ grandmother’s flat while writing their masterpiece, London Calling; the fact that the opening saxophone lines to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” was just saxophonist Eli Fountain messing around, thinking the tapes weren’t rolling (Gaye made sure they were, bless his heart); and the revelation that Run-D.M.C. initially balked at producer Rick Rubin’s suggestion they cover “Walk This Way,” lambasting the original lyrics as “hillbilly shit.”
This is all fascinating to me, and I could go on for hours sharing my discoveries with you, but I know not everyone is the same as me. So rather than being a weekly history lesson, I’m hoping Musical Musings can be a forum where I can share my latest discoveries – whether that be another interesting tidbit about a great record/album, a new sound that hasn’t been heard in the mainstream yet, links to news stories on music-related matters, or simply a commentary discussing what’s on my musical mind.
Anyways, hopefully I’ve set the scene for you a little bit so you know what to expect. Hopefully you come back every Wednesday for my latest rambling…I’ll try to make it interesting for you.
Now, onto that other juicy term that you read in the headline: Muslim punk!!
Last night, on CBC’s The National, there was a story on the burgeoning Muslim punk movement, and showed young men sporting turbans and tattoos in equal measure, playing punk rock like their lives depend on it. According to the story, this movement has actually crossed the pond and showed up in – of all places – Montreal. Crazy!
The story was mostly built on clips from an upcoming documentary on the Muslim punk movement called Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam, by Montreal-based filmmaker Omar Majeed. It’s inspired by the book The Taqwacores by Michael Muhammad Knight, an American who converted to Islam, and which focuses on a house of Muslim punks in Buffalo, New York. The clips from the film included shots of some of these bands performing – bands with names like Vote Hezbollah (wow) – and, while in my humble opinion the music wasn’t that great, the subtitles translating the screamed Arabic vocals revealed these bands were singing about issues concerning their religion and their struggle as Muslim youths, and doing so convincingly.
Could the punk movement – and I mean the REAL punk movement from the ’70s, when people were actually rebelling against something real and not just doing it for show and a mass audience – be alive in the youth of Islam? This is amazing, especially considering such expression is strictly frowned upon and even forbidden in devout Muslim circles. This is true rebellion, boys and girls, and it should be picked up on and studied. It just shows that true punk rock comes from the most dire situations, and all the tweens in the world holed up in their suburban two-door garages mastering the riff to “Anarchy In the U.K.” but losing its soul should pay attention.
Sorry, but the issues surrounding punk are held very close to my heart, because I love the music that came out of that initial ’70s surge so much. But that’s for another day.
This is the accompanying story on CBC.ca, courtesy of the Canadian Press (the link to the National clip is on the right of the page).
And here’s video of a Q Radio interview with Omar Majeed and Michael Muhammad Knight: