Global Hit: The Kominas

The World
The World

Our Global Hit takes us to Lahore, Pakistan, the current home of two punk-rock metal-heads. But their story starts in Boston where the bandmates met in high school. The World’s Marco Werman introduces us to The Kominas.

The Muslim rock band The Kominas is hard core. Not just in terms of how loud their music is. It’s also about how in-your-face they can be.

Take their debut CD: “Wild Nights in Guantanamo Bay.”

On the cover is a picture of a slim woman in a burkha. Aside for the part covering her face, it’s mostly fallen off her body. Beneath her burkha she’s got on a tight tank top with zebra stripes.

The Kominas like to shake things up. The track “Sharia Law in the USA” clearly shows how much the music can shake you.

�Like that song specifically I think once got us labeled like a “jihadi rap group from Boston” on some conservative blog, or something like that.�

The Kominas are from Boston…the sons of Pakistani immigrants.

But they’re not rap, and bandmember Shahjehan Khan doesn’t profess to know what the blogger meant when they called him a JIHADI rapper.

Khan and fellow Komina Basem Usmani say their songs are driven by really just one idea: sarcasm.

�On September 12, I was walking down the hallway of my high school, and some kid turned to me and was like “What did your people do?” And I was like “You mean my people from Cambridge, Massachusetts? Or my people from Boston? Or you know, because my people aren’t from Saudi Arabia or Afghan….But at the same time, can I blame him for that? I don’t think so. Because there’s probably things about him that I don’t know. His background, so I think you have to be forgiving, angry at the right times, but you have just be extremely sarcastic and angry at the right people.�

And that’s a growing group of subjects: from fundamentalist imams to George W. Bush, from Walmart to al Qaeda.

Khan and Usmani got motivated to start a band after they read a novel in high school called “Taqwacores.”

It’s by a white American convert to Islam named Michael Muhammad Knight. Taqwa is an Arabic word that means both love of and fear of Allah.

Michael Muhammed Knight attracted a lot of attention with “Taqwacores” by comparing the prophet Muhammad to a punk rocker.

�And that’s kind of how the band started. We were like ‘What if we started like a Muslim punk type experiment. (Basem Usmani): You know what I mean, it’s kind of like kids reading Clockwork Orange or something, you see a lot of punk kids reading these books, and they just want to bring those characters into real life. (KHAN): Yeah, we want to make our own Muslim punk house… (Usmani): Yeah, it’s like our own Clockwork Orange in a lot of ways. It’s like these wholesome kids that cause trouble, they like have jokes, pranks, they hold houses, they drink, they party, they have sex, they go through all the American rites of passage, but in the middle of a big party they get together and pray together and talk about what the Koran means.�

Shahjehan Khan and Basem Usmani are now producing their music where you might not expect to hear a lot of it: Pakistan.

�I remember being at a party last year and some kid was like “Do you know Lamb of God?” So I was just really , I was surprised that there was such a thriving, there’s a lot of metal heads in Pakistan, I had no idea.�

Basem Usmani set up shop as a journalist in Lahore last year. He coaxed Shahjehan Khan to come too for a few months. Now they’re both there, trying to figure out where to take their music next. It’s not Khan’s first time in Pakistan. But it is his first time there on a musical mission…and not staying with his family.

�When I was there last I definitely didn’t play a lot of music. I hadn’t brought my guitar, I had my little cousin’s pretend guitar which destroyed my hand. But going for yourself really and not going to be sort of a guest of your family, ’cause when I’m over there you know, contrary to what you see on Fox News, like life is pretty good. When you’re with your family, you’ve got like servants and drivers and stuff, and so anything you need is just there, you know. If you want a fried egg at four o’clock in the morning, you can get it.�
By the way, the name Kominas means “the bastards.”

That too is sarcastic: Shahjehan Khan and Basem Usmani are about the nicest guys you’d ever want to hang out with.

For The World, I’m Marco Werman.

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