“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. www.mishtidance.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. www.mishtidance.com