“Weirdo” is a slur I know all too well. This was mainly from being one of the few brown kids in my school who gave a sh*t about the his­tory of Rock. I played gui­tar, had unruly hair and was fas­cin­ated by the shared ety­mo­logy of hip­pie and Hip Hop. My peers on the oth­er hand, ate their spoon fed diet of 50 cent, Kanye West and whatever the sys­tem told them to like. Their favour­ite genres of music being Cur­rent!, New! and Com­mer­cial! (*sigh).

South Asi­an rock bands such as Corner­shop, Asi­an Dub Found­a­tion and Fun Da Men­tal really com­mu­nic­ated to me with their use of South Asi­an samples and instru­ments and were proud addi­tions to my cd col­lec­tion along­side Nir­vana, Scream­ing Trees and Son­ic Youth.  My edu­ca­tion on most of these artists In the early to mid 2000s came from online FAQs as these artists were rarely fea­tured in the print media of the time.

NME, Q and Ker­rang rarely seemed to focus on artists of col­our and per­petu­ated the idea that Rock was just for white kids, with brown kids rep­res­en­ted as only listen­ing to Bol­ly­wood, Bhangra and Hip Hop. My peers seemed to lap up the ste­reo­typ­ing and any brown kid into Rock was seen as dif­fer­ent and strange.

Part of my edu­ca­tion in the his­tory of Rock also involved learn­ing about under­ground Zine cul­ture, zines were grass­roots and often homemade magazines that served well to doc­u­ment and pro­mote under­ground cul­tures such as Punk when the main­stream media was not con­cerned. These zines fostered a sense of com­munity and enabled com­mu­nic­a­tion between fans, they were vital to grow­ing move­ments in the pre inter­net era.  Accord­ing to author and zine col­lect­or Hamja Ahsan , who also ran the legendary zine fest­iv­al DIY cul­tures, it was the inter­net era that killed zines in the mid to late 90s and digit­al fatigue in the 2010s that saw a resur­gence of zines in recent years. Accord­ing to Hamja, “…Zine cul­ture is now big­ger than ever.”

As a South Asi­an Grunger it  is a joy to finally see a zine that cov­ers South Asi­an altern­at­ive sub­cul­tures.

Naz Toora­bally (of Naz & Ella fame) is the founder and edit­or of Weirdo, which is not only a zine but a com­munity that seeks to rep­res­ent altern­at­ive South Asi­ans who often get over­looked by a main­stream media. The FAQ on the Weirdo web­site describes its con­trib­ut­ors as  “…the freaks, the out­siders, and the mis­un­der­stood of South Asi­an des­cent.”  The web­site also fea­tures a blog on altern­at­ive South Asi­an music and fash­ion as well as a data­base of altern­at­ive South Asi­an artists. It’s a wel­come mis­sion.

“While there are plat­forms ded­ic­ated to altern­at­ive people of col­our who are doing incred­ible work, I wanted to cre­ate some­thing that focused spe­cific­ally on the South Asi­an com­munity”;

“As a musi­cian, I’m tired of the altern­at­ive music scene being dom­in­ated by white men. It’s time for the altern­at­ive music industry to recog­nise and sup­port the diverse tal­ent out here and for South Asi­ans in music to sup­port those of us mak­ing music in the alt scene.” — Naz Toora­bally

 Issue 1 of the zine, on Sub­cul­ture, was released in March 2020 and Issue 2 on Music was pub­lished in Novem­ber this year. This Music Issue is over 100 pages with col­our pho­to­graphs and fea­tures inter­views with South Asi­an artists mak­ing altern­at­ive music, from 90s giants such as Sonya Aurora Madan of Echo­belly and Ian D’sa of Billy Tal­ent as well as new­er artists such as Ms. Mohammed and Nadia Javed of The Tuts.

The issue comes with a handy QR code link­ing to a Spo­ti­fy playl­ist fea­tur­ing the artists inter­viewed, guid­ing the read­er through the jour­ney and an Edit­ors Letter/mission state­ment from Naz;

 “…I hope that through WEIRDO we can – at the very least – help diver­si­fy the per­cep­tion of South Asi­an people to include those of us who identi­fy with altern­at­ive sub­cul­tures”.

Naz also touches on why this issue spe­cific­ally focusses on music;

 “People of col­our in music have long been pigeon­holed as cre­at­ors and listen­ers of a nar­row list of genres, ulti­mately lead­ing to the white­wash­ing of rock and altern­at­ive music (and oth­er genres like coun­try and folk).”

Without spoil­ing the con­tents, an illus­trated hall of fame fea­tur­ing sketches of South Asi­an mem­bers of Sum 41, Soundgarden and No Doubt as well as some of the issue’s inter­viewees brought a flood of nos­tal­gia over me.

The inter­views fea­ture pas­sion­ate musi­cians talk­ing about why they do what they do, with com­mon themes includ­ing the lib­er­at­ing nature of Punk, fight­ing racism and the vary­ing levels of sup­port the artists had from their fam­il­ies as well as words of advice for aspir­ing altern­at­ive South Asi­an musi­cians. These are brought to life by the pho­to­graphs of artists in action.

Weirdo Issue 2 provides a fas­cin­at­ing insight into a group of musi­cians that often get over­looked by the main­stream and will serve as a test­a­ment to the UK South Asi­an Altern­at­ive scene in years to come.

Weirdo Issue 2 is out now (print and digit­al) at https://www.weirdozine.com/

Photo by — Arhantika Rebello

Twit­ter: www.twitter.com/arhantika

Ins­tagram: www.instagram.com/arhantikarebello


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DJ Isuru is a music journ­al­ist and broad­caster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series fea­tur­ing the best in Asi­an Under­ground, the next party will be on March 24th Ven­ue TBC. www.djisuru.com


DJ Isuru is a music journalist and broadcaster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series featuring the best in Asian Underground, the next party will be on March 24th Venue TBC. www.djisuru.com