Nevermind the Islam. The Kominas Are Punk

August 12, 2009

Author: Raja Abdulrahim

Source: The Los Angeles Times,0,3121734.story

Shahjehan Khan rounded a corner at the Grammy Museum in downtown L.A. and let out a laugh.

Before him was a piece of memorabilia -- a destroyed school bus stop sign -- from Khan's punk rock band the Kominas, showcased in the museum's yearlong exhibit "Songs of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom."

How did it get there, he was asked. Backup vocalist Nyle Usmani, his arm slung over Khan's shoulder, jumped in, giving some sociopolitical context to the Boston-based band's moderate success: "I'd like to thank 9/11. I wouldn't be here without you."

"Yeah, basically we wouldn't be here without," Khan agreed.

Khan, 25, guitarist and vocalist for the Kominas, which is Urdu for scoundrel, was visiting the museum while on a cross-country, 15-city tour that saw the band play several concerts in the Los Angeles area last week. They were joined on tour by another punk band, Sarmust, and free-stylist Propaganda Anonymous, making their way from New York City to Los Angeles and back to the Boston area, all crammed into a Honda and a Volvo.

Since forming in 2004, the mostly Muslim punk rock band (one of the four members is Hindu) -- along with a handful of similar groups that started around that time under the banner of Taqwacore -- has been an irresistible combination for the media. The groups' satirical and brash lyrics and song titles criticize both fundamentalist Islam and post-Sept. 11 ethnic and religious profiling.