Cookbook DIY video

Additions to my Pantomime Terror routine. At last, got round to describing the video from Fun^da^mental as previously discussed.

The video itself is pantomime on film. The first verse, about the manufacture of a home made bomb, is performed – as is the entire clip – by a dress-up figure before the camera. At the very first appearance this figure appears wearing a white rabbit head. This is strange and already disturbing, but I think references in some oblique way, a kind of cute or innocent image that belongs to the Britain of pet bunnies, or of the world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. That this innocent quickly transforms into a lizard figure is commensurate with the fear that demands a constant vigilance – the otherwise unassuming neighbour becomes a threat. The lizard figure becomes a Zebra – again invoking a kind of infant menagerie – before becoming again the rabbit. But looking more closely, the figure here is wearing a St George t-shirt, thereby clearly signifying nationalism at one level, but also citing the popular world cup publicity picture of Wayne Rooney as dragon-slaying hero, saviour to English football fans. This complicates any easy ascription of innocence to the rabbit/zebra/lizard, and – without implicating the English striker – it suggests perhaps the home-made bomb is very much home grown.

In between the verses, disturbing flashes of dolls tied up, ransom images that tamper with our comforts. Childrens’ toys blasted into the political scene. A graffitist works on a banner alongside.

In the second verse, the bomb-maker is now a 31 year old PhD disaffected with conventional or domestic means of protest, now gone over to the side of organised resistance. Speaking as if to camera at a press conference, or perhaps as if in a video prepared for Al Jazeera broadcast. This figure is insistent, aggressive. Dressed at first as a twisted student in graduation robes, kaffiyeh and graduation hat, half way through the verse this figure changes into someone in balaclava and the ammunition belt of a mythic revolutionary figure, possibly reminiscent of Pancho Villa or Rambo. This character, the bandit-terrorist, turns the volume of threat up considerably and at the end when the character spins a revolver on his finger and turns to someone in a plain dirty white hooded sweatshirt – ‘it takes a dirty mind to build a dirty bomb’. But this grubby image surely suggests we are mistaken to locate this threat outside of Europe – in the murky theatres of violence, in the lawless badlands. The point here is to underline the hypocrisy of our geo-political conventions, this image indicative of a failure to appreciate the co-constitution of such badlands with the dubious foreign policy decisions of the imperial powers.

In between verses, images of toy cars, computer games, football paraphernalia and other trinkets from our early adolescent pastimes. The graffiti still not readable.

The final verse clinches the argument about militarism. The ‘legitimate scientist’ working at his bench in his white lab coat, sponsored by the research funding of the Pentagon, UN flag behind him, developing the most destructive weapons of mass destruction ever know. That half way through the verse this figure transforms into the sinister figure of a Klu Klux Klan member in white hood and smock, then into suited ‘Lord of War’ wearing a gas mask, presumably only the bureaucrats will survive total war. All this is perhaps heavy-handed, but nevertheless the critical points are not misplaced, the metaphoric substitutions work. The projected indications are sound, the neutron bomb is the violence of racism, of class/bureaucratic inhumanity, the cold clinical cynicism of the (mad) scientist in the employ of even more mad (mutually assured destruction) masters.

By this stage the point is made, finally the full quote is visible from the graffitist. It is a citation from an American president, necessary only to provide a space for reflection while the tune fades. ‘If we make peaceful revolution impossible, we make violent revolution inevitable’ – JFK.

[Watch the video directed by Kashan W Butt, Nation Films, 2006, here: http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/xb0hcy
Fun-da-Mental - Cookbook D.I.Y by bbpradi0]

lyrics:

I’m packed up ingredients stacked up my Laptop
Downloaded the military cookbook PDF
Elements everyday chemicals at my reach
Household bleach to extract the potassium
Chlorate Boiling on a hotplate with hate
recipe for disaster plastic bomb blaster
I mix up 5 parts wax to Vaseline
slowly … dissolve in gasoline
add to potassium in a large metal bowl
knead like dough so they bleed real slow
Gasoline evaporates… cool dry place
I’m strapped up cross my chest bomb belt attached
deeply satisfied with the plan I hatched
electrodes connected to a gas cooker lighter
switch in my hand the situation demands
self sacrifice hitting back at vice with a £50 price

I’m 31.. numb …but the hurt is gone
Gonna build a dirty bomb
us this privilege and education
My PHD will free me
Paid of the Ruskies for weapons grade Uranium
Taught myself skills from Pakistan Iran
upgraded its stage two of the plan
Rage… a thermo nuclear density gauge
stolen by the Chechens from a Base in Georgia
I get some cobalt 60 from a food irradiator
so easy to send the infidels to their creator
its takes a dirty mind to build a dirty bomb
The simplicity is numbing genius is dumbing
down the situation to a manageable level
to make the world impossible to live for these devils
a suitcase of semtex a mobile phone trigger
Blow them all to hell for a million dollar figure

I insist I’m a legitimate scientist
paid by the government with your finances
I got a private room in the Whitehouse suite
So I can develop according to presidential Brief
The megaton don Gulf war veteran
The foremost proponent of the neutron bomb
at the centre atomic surrounded on all sides
wrapped in layers of lithium deutaride
the bomb detonates causing lithium to fission into helium
tritium neutrons into Fission
The blast causes shockwaves that melt body fat
uniquely though it leaves the buildings intact
I made the 25 megaton daisy cutter
a great blast radius with very little clutter
There’s less radiation so you get a cleaner bomb
its your money people it cost a billion

Nawaz/Watts. Nation All is War 2006

 

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Comments

  • Jessica  On 12/03/2008 at 11:09 pm

    John Hutnyk is not the only one with a pantomime response to Fun-Da-Mental’s ‘Cookbook DIY’ video. The video was also analyzed by a third year York University course, “Ethnicity, Power and Identity”, which examines the relationship between ethnicity, power and identity in different socio-cultural settings and national frameworks. In an effort to get the students to express their thoughts and feelings about the video, the course Director assigned the students the task of critiquing the video the same way Hutnyk did. As a student enrolled in the course, I felt inspired to share my own critique of the video on this blog site.
    The song “Cookbook DIY” is controversial for its lyrics and for the images in the song’s video and, as a result, political representatives did not take a liking to it. The song begins with the manufacturing of a home made bomb which many would believe is an implication of a terrorist attempt. The song’s lyrics in the video are also accompanied by disturbing images, such as dolls tied up and graffiti on walls, which further give off a disturbing mood for the song. Even though people may understand this song as a support of terrorism, it is not the message that Aki Nawaz, as well as the other members of Fun‘Da’Mental, wanted to send. Nawaz has continuously argued that Cookbook DIY is not at all a support of terrorism and the article by Candy Productions (2006) quotes Nawaz stating how not only do other individuals say a lot more contentious things than he does but also what he has to say is not new (Candy Productions, 2006). If one were to consider the songs created by well known American musicians, they would agree with Nawaz for the reason that these artists, who are also trying to use their popularity as a means to bring awareness to the war in Iraq by creating songs, use lyrics which are just as controversial. For example, American music artist Madonna created a music video called “American Life” and the original version of the video was not aired for the reason that it was so controversial. Madonna ends the video standing on an army tank with a rifle pointed to a political figure which was a clear representation of President George Bush. Madonna’s video, therefore, is an example of a more controversial video than Aki Nawaz’s video which was also not aired because of how the public was disturbed by the images they saw. What makes the “Cookbook DIY” video controversial is how Aki Nawaz uses his lyrics to explain how he understands why suicide bombers behave the way they do. However, this understanding is not compassion for the bomber, as he is only stating that he understands why they behave this way which is a mere result of their anger and frustration with the opposing party. Nawaz also uses very controversial figures in this video, such as the actors in the video dressed as members of the Ku Klux Klan, which also causes the viewer to automatically judge this video as a support of the dire aspects of the world.

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  • Ariane  On 13/03/2008 at 12:09 am

    Aki Nawaz and his group Fun’Da’Mental went through an ‘unofficial’ media censorship and because of the current political climate; they had a lack of support from the liberal left and were even ‘dropped’ by their record label. Terrorists attack on the West has created such a sense of fear that people have to think twice before what they say and in Aki Nawaz’s case, he lost all support he had in reprocaution to his song lyrics. There are two links that can be made to Aki Nawaz; one is to NWA’s controversial song “F**K tha Police” in 1988 who subsequently were under investigation by the FBI and who were the first rap group to receive a Parental Advisory warning, the second is French rapper Sniper’s song “Ma France” which criticized the French government after the riots in March of 2005. In both of these examples, just like Aki Nawaz did, the rappers were also singing about their reaction and feelings towards their surroundings. It seems that the government in the United Kingdom might have been scared of what Aki Nawaz ‘truth’ revealed and that it might have influenced other members of his community in a negative or positive manner, especially since the suicide bombers in London were of Pakistani origin. Although the liberal left have not justified their reasons for not supporting Aki Nawaz, it is clear that they must have felt some kind of pressure from the opposing parties, as well from the media and the public for not being patriotic enough.

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  • Mari  On 13/03/2008 at 3:04 am

    The track “DIY Cookbook” was contested on many levels mainly through the perspective of the media and in regards to the lyrics themselves. The media only chose a small part of the lyrics to talk about- basically it was controlled sensationalism however, there was so much of it that many people got the wrong impression of the song and the album. The media took a very offensive approach to the situation, which was mostly due to the timing of the album’s release and the London bombings. What we don’t get from the media is the deeper discussions about the issues at large that took place during their interview with Aki.

    The story being told through the lyrics is quite obvious however, what needs to be looked at is: why is a Muslim being denied dissent? Many documentaries- books- films- plays, have been written about current times but by non-Muslims and that is ok but, when a Muslim attempts to argue, the general response is an attempt to alienate him from other dissenting voices. If there hadn’t been so much confusion by the media onslaught, people would find the video itself quite creative and understand the lyrics and the message being portrayed.

    The main message being transcended through the bands music is basically to question our morality in terms of conflict and resistance- we find people who bomb indiscriminately repulsive however, we do not find THE STATE repulsive when it bombs indiscriminately yet, we pay for it through our taxes or we somehow accept what the State does, but not that resistance has the same right.

    The bigger and almost most impossible issue we need to look at is that of justice and economic terrorism carried out by the West i.e. Foreign Policy. We are living in times where the West can no longer hide its repulsive actions against the poor and oppressed, the media in its positive position can now bring the scenes of murder and destruction into our homes, this was not the case 50 years ago. The reality will change peoples perspectives on these issues.

    The treatment of Muslims is another big issue – we need to either damp down on the demonising and begin to resolve the issues or we create a conflict based on lies, deceit and political incompetence.

    As for Aki being called the ‘suicide rapper?’ I do not know whether to take it seriously or just laugh. What he did was expose the blatant apathy and stupidity of the media and it is sad to see that the rights to dissent still come with conditions.

    Marisa
    (York University, SOCI 3430 Tutorial 2)

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  • john hutnyk  On 13/03/2008 at 11:11 am

    I think this is good – a whole course seems like a great idea. I’d be slightly worried if someone really said ‘critique the video in the “same” way Hutnyk did’ but I think the points raised take us in usefully different directions. Jessica’s comparison of Cookbook with Madonna’s American (apple) pie is very telling. Maria’s point about the liberal left is a nice skewer. And Mari has a great dialectical question in her phrasing: ‘why is a Muslim being denied dissent?” All this is very welcome.My article is now published in one version as ‘Pantomime Terror: Diasporic Music in a Time of War’ in the “Journal of Creative Communications”, Vol. 2, No. 1-2, 123-141 (2007) – access it here , and I’ve a longer version that will be the opening chapter(s) of a new book to be called “Pantomime Terror” – out early next year I hope (parenthood permitting!)Thanks all.

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  • Karla  On 14/03/2008 at 2:24 pm

    The release of Fun^Da^Mental’s new album “All is War” created a great amount of turmoil and unrest amongst the British public. After the public outrage over the album, the liberal left party in the UK had difficulty supporting the group. After the public outcry they changed their view into a negative one and no longer supported the group. The viewpoint may have changed because the lyrics and video of the song called “DIY Cookbook” were taken out of perspective and misunderstood by the public and liberal left party. Other reasons include Islamophobia, the release of the album was after September 11, 2001 and the July 7th bombings in London.

    Fun^Da^Mental’s lyrics and video of “DIY Cookbook” provide a critique of terrorism by examining different issues. It raises how issues such as home grown terrorism, building bombs for the military, oppression and power relations between different countries around the world can generate problems and possibly lead to terrorism. The reaction by the public and lack of support by the liberal left party perpetuated Islamophobia and racism within Britain because the Muslim artists were viewed as a threat and feared.

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  • Melanie  On 15/03/2008 at 3:35 am

    In our third year York University course, “Ethnicity, Power, and Identity”, we were asked to decipher why the liberal left would have difficulty supporting FunDaMental’s case. As a student in this course, I will post some of what I believe is a possible answer to the question we were asked to discuss.
    The liberal left erred on the side of the critics because they had difficulty supporting FunDaMental’s case after there was public outrage over their songs and their new album. Usually, those on the liberal left would support a group’s own views and beliefs being expressed to a larger audience but in this case, they are angered by the lyrics. FunDaMental attempts to challenge assumptions held by the government such as everyone being on board with what they are doing and how they are handling situations around the world. They try to give the public the other side of the story and let them analyze and dig deeper into what they see on the media as normal; in a way to decide for oneself what the truth is. FunDaMental brings politics and entertainment into the lyrics of the music. The lyrics of the DIY Cookbook song implicate the government as a terrorist and show how terrorism is performed by what society deems as ‘the other’ and also by what society sees as the government who is supposed to be in power. Part of the underlying message of the song touches on the terrorist actions by ‘the other’ and the concept of homegrown terrorism by the government. Aki Nawaz, the lead singer of the group, pointed to the fact that terrorism is not just a world away performed by those who are evil and horrible but is a very real threat within the government when ‘legitimate scientists’ develop destructive weapons for mass destruction which is sponsored by the Pentagon, clearly making the statement that the state is involved in terrorist acts.
    The government fought back by viewing Aki Nawaz as promoting fascist terrorism due to what he was sending out through his music. With the media coverage, the producers dropped the group’s album and there was unofficial ‘censorship’ by the cultural industry. I believe that the government and the state feared losing support for the war and for their on-going battles in various areas around the world if this music was not censored. For that reason, the government censored the music by the group and characterized the music as promoting terrorism to attempt to gain back their power and control.
    The group informs not to fall for self-censorship but analyze the situation and decide for one’s self. The group is the sort of threat that society needs to re-think policies in place that wage unneeded war and attempt to crush civil societies.

    Melanie
    (York University, SOCI 3430, Tutorial 3)

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  • john hutnyk  On 15/03/2008 at 8:18 am

    Hi Melanie – good stuff as well, but I’ve not seen any evidence that ‘The Government’ were active in this yet. The press, as you also imply, were reprehensible, and the sort of support that Salman Rushdie got was totally absent.

    So, yes to some parts of your argument, especially about the unofficial censorship on the part of the culture industry, but I think we need also to avoid a conspiracy theory of the media that might be suggested here with the use of the dark phrase ‘The Government fought back’.

    As you wrote:
    “The government fought back by viewing Aki Nawaz as promoting fascist terrorism due to what he was sending out through his music. With the media coverage, the producers dropped the group’s album and there was unofficial ‘censorship’ by the cultural industry”

    It may well have been the case that someone in a nefarious agency suggested to The Sun and The Guardian ‘journalists’ that it would be a public service to out Aki as a ‘suicide rapper’, but I think it is more likely that these journalists merely have ‘The Government’ inside their heads and they did this because they wanted a story on the one-year anniversary of the London July 7 bombings. As I will suggest about in my Montreal talk early May.

    Red Salute, John.

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  • Luka  On 15/03/2008 at 9:28 pm

    DIY Cookbook video (as well as the rest of the album “All is War”) by Aki Nawaz is simply yet another artistic and creative approach to raising questions around the actions of political leaders and others in position of power and authority. It brings up themes of injustice, political wrongdoing, public misconceptions and social inequalities, just like any other movement aimed at bringing something specific to the attention of the public.

    What we have is a British-born Muslim, speaking out about issues of political injustice, racism and social inequalities that are implicitly (yet relatively blatantly) directed at the British government and their stance on, as well as role in, the fight on terrorism. But, to make things worse given his ethnic background, Nawaz is basically ‘playing with fire’ when he brings up sensitive issues (ie. terrorism) that as of recent have become extremely racially and ethnically specific/oriented. It is unfortunate that a man of Islamic descent (despite being raised in Britain) is automatically associated with (if not even directly accused of) supporting extreme Muslim fundamentalist groups just because there is this supposed connection between the issues he raises (terrorism and injustice) and his background (Muslim).

    As a result of extensive media exposure, the image that the public gets now is that it is no longer a British rapper causing British political turmoil, rather it is a radical Muslim condoning acts of terrorism; hardly the case. But, how is what he is doing any different than what other bands (such as Rage Against Machine, Linkin Park and the Dixie Chicks in the US) have done in the past? Yes, granted, it is withing the British context and not the American (and the Dixie Chicks did in fact receive serious backlash, hampering their musical careers), but Nawaz is questioning British political authority and Western mentality (just like the bands mentioned above have questioned the US political authority and the western ideology) not encouraging Muslim extremist fundamentalism. His ethnic decent seems to hold more value in these debates, than the words he utters in his songs. This is something the bands above never had the unfortunate privilege of experiencing.

    Luka
    (York University, SOCI 3430 – “Ethnicity, Power, and Identity”)

    Like

  • Sian  On 19/09/2008 at 1:30 am

    Hi John
    I was at your talk at Sussex in January on “Pantomime Terror” and am eager to read the final extended piece! (we chatted briefly about things gothic, marx and mcewan…) when do you publish?? :)

    Like

  • john  On 19/09/2008 at 7:10 am

    hi sian

    i am presently rewriting, radicslly, the version you heard and will present the final version as my inaugural at goldsmiths on tuesday 30th of september (5:30 ian gulland lecture theatre – see the invite under what is to be done in the sidebar of the front page of this blog). That then gets publised by goldsmiths, and will be the opening and end of the book… which is going to press by year end I hope. be well, john.

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