Punk More than Just Music
by PRATIK KARKI
Here I do not belt out crap about what punk rock is and worshiping foreign bands but acknowledge the existence of underground outfits that have long been present before Nepal had cable TV or internet. If we look at the scene now, there is quite a number of promising young Punk underground bands coming out like FOID, 13th Street, Dewdrop, The Doltish and hardcore bands Overcome, Systematic Rejection that play a mix of original and cover songs. The bands are tight and play with lot of passion, honesty and above all, stay true to the basics of what punk/hardcore is all about; 'sticking it to the system through music'.
The first punk rock band in Nepal to record an album is 'Jhilke and the Rockers'-1996. It was pretty much a D.I.Y (do it yourself) band. Their cassette cover is hand drawn and the quality of the sound suggests it was probably recorded in a living room. Inside Two Stupid Triangle was pretty much punk considering their attitude and the lyrics. But they never came out and said they were punk or hardcore; rather they were out just to have fun and voice their individual opinion. They had been nominated for the Hits FM awards in the Best Song in foreign language category a couple of years back. The media/awards pretty much shun underground groups that I bet create better music to that of most mainstream bands/artists. In the Nepali punk rock scene, two bands stand out. Rai ko Ris for the anarcho-feminist punk ethics it sings about and Shannon Scam, the band that has long been active in the scene while most bands come, play a couple of gigs and disappear.
Rai ko Ris
S.Rai, 38 now, has been running an Info shop since 2004 which holds a collection of subversive literature, lefty, anarchist and feminist books and zines and music. She took up music seriously at 12 and shares some of her thoughts on music and the band. "Being a girl, my folks thought I was an odd ball, locked up in my room, not into partying, boys, or fashion, just into music and playing my guitar. But I've learned to always give the middle finger to any authority and those who don't make sense. Everything is d.i.y. The recording is done at home in our kitchen-living room; from pressing cds to covers for albums. For the gigs, we do everything ourselves -putting up the flyers, carrying all the gear to the venue and back home again, and such.
"Narrow minded people are often the ones who label us as punk. There are weirdo girls like me who found no place on earth and no male punks really understood it, unless it was a trade off for sex or some such thing – because what I see in Kathmandu is like everywhere else, girls / women are totally in the background. Boys make all the noise, all the time...I have to be brave, smile and just play this music and live this life and ignore their noise and do what I do, because I'm frankly not good for much else. So, punk music was all that was in me and it made my heart beat and kicked my ass into motion, instead of lying around being a depressed, passive fool who gave into the ways of the government, a government that couldn't care less about its people.
"So this is where my politics and interest in anarcho-feminism comes in. They are just words, but obviously at 38 it has also been about action. Women from Nepal have to take a strong stand against some things that are totally screwed up in our society. And then there are women such as myself, the so-called 'educated' (I'm still trying to de-learn it all!) and you realise you have society the world over to deal with too! It never ends. A lot of punk bands or hardcore bands really don't like Rai Ko Ris because we stand up strongly for mutual aid, independence of the mind, anti sexist behaviour, taking responsibility, and being pro-active. They think it's an attack against them...it's not.
"During the ten year civil war we had to be careful all the time. You know, in those days you couldn't even carry a little red book about Maoism. We had it in the Info shop. We were also critical of the bubble mentality of people in the city. They either didn't seem to give a damn or wanted to forget about hill / terai people being targeted by wealthy politicians or that the government was not very fair. Our lyrics served like an alternative newspaper in that respect, for those interested here and those abroad. That's why I laugh at all these people singing about our great and beautiful Nepal...half of them live in Kathmandu and hardly leave the valley or their tole! A struggle for them is a bandh day as they can't go out to their favourite restaurant or supermarket.
"I have agreed to the interview just so that people don't write stuff like 'Rai Ko Ris have gone on a hiatus' again, I thought I should let you all know that we exist, because for us, it's a life thing until death or until I become a senile old lady doing air guitar at the ashram for the aged in Pashupati."
This is what the band had to say about the music they play and how things were/are for a punk/hardcore band:
"Being a hardcore band now, we try not to be philosophical at all! We sing what we see and feel. We've got songs from human trafficking to moshing! It's the basic stuff what's going around. It hard to define the whole punk scene here in Nepal. There was no hardcore/punk scene/bands back then when the band started playing at gigs,not that we know of. We can see Anarchy logo all over buses, walls, t-shirt a school girl puts on but do they have a clue what that stands for? Are they punk rockers? Do they live the punk way of life? We wonder. If the kids walk around with Mohawks, studs and spikes, then it's obvious they're going to get into trouble with cops, parents, teachers at school. For us, it's just a fashion we chose not to follow.
"Rebellion, anger and the whole being-yourself-attitude was what drew us into punk rock. Punk music is short, fast, aggressive sound and all about being yourself. There are loads of bands around singing about how beautiful the girl is and how madly they are in love or how the girl ditched him. We DON'T relate to all that crap. We are not against anything or trying to prove something. We just love playing hardcore music and having a good time and yeah, sometimes we are pissed at the things going around us, so screaming and making noise helps a lot to unleash the aggression."
Shannon Scam belongs to a crew that calls themselves the OVC-One Voice Crew; a hardcore punk movement that has its network spread in over 17 countries. OVC started off in the year 1996 in Malaysia and Singapore by Abdul Hadi and later on by Anis (Sideline-Malaysia) driven by the ideology 'Unity is Strength'. What started off as a move to support/promote grass root and struggling bands and releasing few records, now has hundreds of bands and crew members under its wings worldwide and its own independent D.I.Y Record label; one of the strongest in Asia.
Asim is currently based in Malaysia. He started playing in a punk rock band called 'GET-OUT!' based in Pokhara in 2001. He later joined SS and played bass till he left for Malaysia where he has been actively involved in representing OVC-Nepal. He further explains, "Punk/Hardcore is not only music; its reality. Since day one, OVC has been trying to unite all of Asia basically through this movement. We are not only active musically, but also we focus on various social activities like feeding the homeless, animal rights, drugs awareness and so on. In Nepal, it supports a variety of groups including supporting new struggling bands by giving them the opportunity to play at their shows. The first show by OVC was on June 25th 2011 at Neon Pub on the occasion of our 15th Anniversary.
"Deep down in the streets of third world countries, there are voices of struggle, violence and suppression unheard. That's what they scream about through music. OVC roams the streets and keeps the movement of punk/hardcore alive. He adds, "We are not against anyone or anything; rather for a cause to spread the word: Punk-Hardcore is not only music, it's reality!"