Geo·dissonance: the metal movement is proliferating to all corners of the globe. In its relentless display of vitriolic truths and the ugliest questions of existence, we can hear the resounding riffs of heavy metal in the most conservative pockets of society. As your Punjabi, riff-worshiping correspondent, I've created Geodissonance to report the controversy: as metal unveils dissonance in cradles of brutality around the world.
As an Indian metalhead myself, I can't help but wonder if an all girl Kashmir-based band like Pragaash would be universally welcomed by the scene if its members had the Y chromosomes and facial hair to meet a strangely unevolved and archaic set of gender norms. The band recently disbanded after receiving a series of death threats, so, too, a formal demand from Kashmir's state appointed cleric, Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad, to cease activity as a group. Despite this religious intervention and societal disparagement, you might be shocked to discover that Pragaash's music was nothing more than fun, innocuous rock – the sonic and thematic opposite of such politically charged, all-girl groups like Pussy Riot.
Pragaash emerged in the Kashmiri scene as a teenage trio, consisting of Aneeqa Khalid on bass, Noma Nazir on vocals and guitar, and Farah Deeba on percussion. Despite their age and sex – two criteria that easily could have kept them off-the-radar (and by extension, all alpha-male minds appeased), the band gained local fame when they placed third at Srinagar's Battle of the Bands. While to them, and any musicians in favor of a greater female presence in the Indian metal and rock scene, this was a clear positive omen, the group quickly received societal backlash. In social media outlets, the teenage rockers were labelled as "sluts" and "prostitutes," and began to receive threats of rape, even death; their image perpetually worsened when Ahmad officially expressed, "when girls and young women stray from the rightful path…this kind of non-serious activity can become the first step towards our destruction."
If you look at our featured photo, it is immediately clear that these girls are dressed modestly, not seeking to cause a riot amongst conservative folks with gaudy make-up or scant clothing. Nazir, for example, is fully covered from head to toe, thereby observing religious principles while committing the completely un-criminal and globally embraced act of rocking out. Thus, Ahmad's allegation of "straying from the right path" calls into question the historically subjective and scapegoating concept of a "right path." By whose authority can one man declare the inherent and sound role of the other half of the species?
If we examine the intentions of Pussy Riot, a band that rose from and was driven to artistically assault the injustices of their political system, we can draw a sharp contrast with Pragaash – a young trio with the the desire to simply express themselves musically within a growing, Indian metal and rock scene. As fans of rock, Pragaash sought only to contribute to a scene of which they were and remain an inherent element; the group's quick disbandment post-death threats serves to tragically underscore how gender-based discrimination can cast silence over creative minds, set into fear by the society of which they are an integral part.
Interestingly enough, while social media expressed their outcry against Pragaash, Kashmir's Chief Minister Omar Abdullah initially described his admiration of the girls' music on his Twitter account. As death threats were voiced towards the group, arrests were made, and Abdullah later stated his belief that no legal action would be necessary against Grand Mufti, who publicly delivered a fatwa on the trio. Sometime after the wave of social media fury towards Pragaash, Abdullah deleted all of his supportive, pro-Pragaash tweets.
To date, there has been neither religious condemnation nor social outcry towards any of the male bands that performed at the Srinagar Battle of the Bands – making it painfully clear that what Ahmad deems the "rightful path" is currently in existence for and admissible only to women who may, at one point, "stray" from their publicly upheld gender norms. "Destruction," indeed.
[photo via Metalsucks]