|Origin||Worcester, Massachusetts, United States|
Hassan Ali Malik
|Past members||Arjun Ray
Imran Ali Malik
The Kominas are a punk-rock band formed in 2005 by two Pakistani-Americans from Worcester, Massachusetts. In over ten years, the band has enjoyed a number of line-up changes, and self-released albums, evolving from being a niche cultural project to a multi-continent touring musical act attracting fans around the world.
Their dance-oriented sound characteristically blends 1977 punk stylings, with influences from psychedelic rock from around the world (like Turkey and Iran), Punjabi folk music, surf rock, reggae, disco and dub. Their songs are often self-referential and situationalist, often challenging listeners to re-evaluate their assumptions of what it means to be American, or Muslim, or punk.
In 2005, with the release of just two songs on the internet website MySpace, The Kominas found themselves subjects of national news pieces and film and radio documentaries. Initially self-labelled as Bollywood Punk, the band adopted the label "Taqwacore", in reference to a book called "The Taqwacores" by American novelist Michael Muhammad Knight, which imagines what a would be American Muslim Punk scene would look like. This connection quickly fascinated American and International Media, which led to much being written about this unique example of life-imitating-art, and many international tours with the author. Many fans of this phenomenon felt that this was a necessary complicating counter-narrative to a simplistic, and largely Islamophobic post-9/11 American media landscape.
They came to renown in South Asia from songs they released in Punjabi, Urdu, and Hindi. Their filmed BBC session where the band covered Bollywood classic "Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai" especially got the band much positive attention from the Southern Asian and Punjabi peoples, both native and abroad.
One of their biggest hits is the song "Tunnnnnn", which is a re-interpretation of a classic reggae song; Willie Williams' "Armagideon Time". The lyrics of "Tunnnnnn" are a mashup of English, Urdu, and Punjabi. It's lyrics proclaim (in Urdu): "We will only drink what they drink in Iraq! We will only drink what they drink in Karbala!", touching upon the subject of the horrific reality of warfare and the bombs which were dropped on those places. "Tunnnnnn" was an instant hit with both Kominas fans and newcomers alike.
With the self-titled release "Kominas" in 2012, the band has adopted the more Americana rock elements grunge and garage rock in their style, and moved away from writing about Muslim-centric issues. From 2009-2012 the band toured extensively around America, Canada and Europe. However, since 2012, the band's output has only been mostly daily missives on their Facebook page, which is more often that not, a commentary on the daily politics of race and religion.
Though their commentary has remained political, many fans feel their music has grown less ethnocentric or religious minded, and has taken become more absurdist and nihilistic.
The Kominas use a variety of ways to identify themselves to their Pakistani heritage. For example, they use the word “brown” on Twitter to evoke its racial meanings. The word is used as an identifier of the people of South Asian and Pakistani origins. It connects them to their heritage and to other similar bands and people.
The Taqwacore label was another way the Kominas identified themselves. While Taqwacore consists mainly Islamic punk rockers, bands like The Kominas don’t like how the religious aspect of the label is what people focus on. The band is just as much about the politics of what Taqwacore is. It is about promoting their heritage in a new and different way: through punk rock and through social media. The Kominas and the label Taqwacore brings together people despite the distance that may or may not be between them. They are united through their identity of being “brown,” their love of punk rock, and/or their religious affiliations.
The Kominas’s songs and lyrics have a political aspect. They are meant to cause change in a predominantly white culture. They wish to create safe spaces for people of color listening to their music.
2008 - "Wild Nights in Guantanamo Bay" (Writing & Composition: Shahjehan Khan / Basim Usmani / Arjun Ray / Karna Ray ~ Production: Dana Chisholm Wellspring Sound in Acton, MA; The New England Institute of Art Brookline, MA; DChizzle Studios Lexington, MA)
2010 - "Escape to Blackout Beach" (Writing & Composition: Basim Usmani / Imran Ali Malik / Shahjehan Khan ~ Production: Sevan Minassian at New Alliance Studio)
2011 - "Kominas" (Writing & Composition: Imran Ali Malik / Basim Usmani / Hassan Ali Malik / Abdullah Saeed ~ Produced: Sevan Minassian at New Alliance Studio)
2015 - "Stereotype" (Writing & Composition: Basim Usmani / Hassan Ali Malik / Karna Ray / Shahjehan Khan ~ Production: Sevan Minassian, Steve Roche, and Haris Usmani ~ Recorded at New Alliance Studios in Cambridge, Massachusetts & Permanent Hearing Studios in Philadelphia, PA ~ Mastered by Nick Zampiello at New Alliance Mastering in Cambridge, Massachusetts)
- "Nevermind the Islam. The Kominas are punk". Raja Abdulrahim. Los Angeles Times. August 12, 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
- "The Kominas bring Islamic punk to Meltdown". Iain Aitch. The Guardian. 10 June 2010. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
- "Punk meets Islam for new generation in U.S." Azadeh Ansari. CNN. August 13, 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
- Hsu, Wendy Fangyu (August 2013). "Mapping the Kominas' sociomusical transnation: punk, diaspora, and digital media". Asian Journal of Communication. 23 (4): 386–402.
- Sahim, Sarah. "Punk Band The Kominas are Unashamedly Brown and They Don't Give a Fuck About You". Paper.