Category Archives: Aki Nawaz

Pantomime Terror #music #politics

There’s a whole section on Wagner in this, and some humour. For the record… (you can order by clicking the cover to get to Zero then look for the sales tab lower right):

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Pantomime Terror: Music and Politics

Screen shot 2013-11-13 at 11.22.40Click here to order:


Black Star


Am more than half way through this… Again. Get this book. Believe the endorsement on the back!



Get it via the link here

Pantomime Terror Lecture 30.9.2008

This, here, for the gnawing criticism of the mice, is my inaugural Professorial lecture at Goldsmiths September 30 2008. Details: presented by Professor John Hutnyk of the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths. Title: ‘Pantomime Terror: the paranoid commuter and the danger of music’. Introduced by Professor Geoffrey Crossick. Please note there is a missing part at 48;38 where there was a tape changeover. At this point its important to know I discussed the Fun^da^mental video DIY Cookbook, available here:
and there is a bit of the discussion is missing, but covered in this blog post: – sorry its complicated, but if you like the first 48 mins, then why not watch the short 3 min FDM vid, read the short blog, then return for the eccentric finale!
Thanks heaps to Adela for filming this.

Popular Music and Human Rights

Pantomime Terror in print (see downloads page for the pdf).

This is the flyer for the set: Popular Music and Human Rights 2-vol set

Undercover Transports

click on the page to download a pdf of this text (now with all the images).

Pantomime Paranoia in London, or, ‘Look Out, He’s Behind You’

The book version of a commentary on various things Fun^da^mental (plus stuff on the Kumars at No. 42, Jean Charles de Menezes, Forest Gate, and the general mayhem of war-on-terror culture) is now out in a volume edited by Ian Peddie. Some of this material first appeared in various places across this blog, and was my inaugural lecture.

Now the pdf of my chapter is available on this link: 011 Hutnyk Ch 4 Peddi, by grace and favour of the publisher.

Bosnia – A Painful Peace – doc by Aki Nawaz … comments…

To Gaza with Love – 6pm Goldsmiths Cinema, Monday 30 Nov 2009

The true story a rag-tag team of international peace activists aboard two fishing boats, who decided to take on the might of the Israeli military and break the siege of Gaza. Refusing to be intimidated, only one thing could stop them; and that was them-selves.

Screening, 6pm Goldsmiths Cinema, Monday 30 Nov 2009


Film: To Gaza with Love

gazaIndyMedia on Aki on Gaza:

At this years London Anarchist Bookfair I grabbed Musician, Activist, Punk, Broadcaster and Musilim, Aki Nawaz who was there to introduce his film ‘To Gaza With Love’.

He gave some tough critiques on the Anarchist movement, talked about his recent visit to Pakistan in which he questions the true motives recent violence towards western journalists, and hints at what exciting projects we can expect from him in 2010.

Attached Files

Report Aki Nawaz (Fun-Da-Mental)


akifdmliv1For Kiwi and Alexander’s book, I’ve started (very late, overdue) to reconstruct my talk from the Berlin Chameleons conference in Feb last year. Its a draft as yet. Here is the first stab at an intro….

I have that sinking feeling again: I don’t trust the chameleon. I don’t like the guise. The chameleon is embedded, goes undercover, incognito, prefers covert operations, stealth, intrigues, performs with a secret agency, organizes an underground resistance, clandestine ops, a conspirator of deception. The associative range of ‘camouflage’ and ‘immersion’, when thought of as something that might pass as a strategy for understanding work in the arts, humanities or social sciences, immediately invokes a range of military and official connotations that do not bode well for a progressive politics of knowledge. Journalists as well as academics have been exposed in various local dress, false stories have been planted in the press, dossier’s collected that masquerade as truth, propaganda lies. There are a great many examples of dishonesty, feint and deceit that pass as truth amongst the casualty machine that is war. Increasingly war is fought in the media theatre as well as in blood – with murderous weapons on the ground, and equally brutal machines of war on screen.

The military have always liked to dress up, often in burlesque manner, and it was only with modern warfare that flamboyance was not always a dress code. All those red tunics of Empire of yore… Contemporary wars now sport desert patters or jungle greens, and contemporary war reporters increasingly opt for battle field chic in their to-camera reports. Television news and documentary series thrive on the new aesthetic of the embedded, combat boot wearing, hot spot on the spot presenter, mimicking military campaigns to stream live from Baghdad, Kabul, or the border of Gaza (as I write few journalists can enter Gaza as Israel relentlessly shells a trapped population of millions). The theatre of war has its own costume department.

This is, of course, also true of the opposition. In this chapter I will have something to say of the Palestinian scarf, the Kufiya, in relation to solidarity and resistance, and fashion, just as I think its important to acknowledge the symbolism of media use on both sides. In news and commentary, there are critics of war who stage their interventions with a certain style just as much as do the public relations and publicity-conscious Generals. I think not only of the Japanese news presenter that wore such a Kufiya every night as he reported the attacks on Baghdad in 2003, but also the role of such a scarf in the iconography of Aki Nawaz from Fun^da^mental, a long-time severe critique of anti-Muslim aggression. This chapter wishes to chart a politics of representation and fashion, recognising perhaps that all camouflage is war; that all fashion shoots are hostile; that all journalism happens by way of conflict. Today, whether safe at home before the screen, or on the streets of <insert battle-zone name here>. all our reports are war stories.

The chapter will go on to discuss Aki Nawaz’s recent adventures in media and on the Free Gaza boat, Ted Swedenburg’s excellent Hawgblawg, and research strategies under conditions of total war….

Fee Fi Fo Fum – I smell the spin of terrorisuMI5

Pantomime Terror lecture abstract. Latest version, still to be worked up. I am rethinking all of this, its provisional, its hesitant, its giving me a headache (of course) and it has to be ready soon. Yikes. And this is supposed to be the fun part!….

We are called upon to ‘report any suspicious baggage’ by constant repetition of security announcements at train stations and airports. Rather than provide a robust security service, such announcements seem to generate a new low level and everyday paranoia. The war on terror is generalized and does not happen ‘over there’, but almost absentmindedly occurs to each of us everywhere: the paranoia infiltrates our everyday lives and become normalized. The terrorist is right there beside us – behind us, among us. Watch out! I will argue that these announcements are part of a new kind of popular culture pantomime, with villains and heroes, and absurd storytelling to boot. That this happens alongside new legislation, new legal and administrative powers (detention, DNA, CCTV, MI5 Security ‘notes’); and stop and search security policing focused upon Muslims (and unarmed Brazilians shot on the underground) is the dark underbelly of the performative. Restrictions on civil liberties and ‘limits’ to freedom are proclaimed as necessary and debates about these necessities no longer raise concern – we assume someone is watching out, and we will report the suspicious bags if we see them. It is clear that spaces for critical contest are mortally threatened in contemporary, tolerant, civilized Britain.

Exploring the metaphor of Pantomime might be a way to comprehend the dysfunctional aspect of present times. This discussion reviews critical work by the musician Aki Nawaz from the band Fun-da-Mental in the light of pantomime performance. Nawaz was castigated as a ‘Suicide Rapper’ for his 2006 album ‘All is War’, but those that did so missed the nuances of his critique. Fun-Da-Mental’s earlier work relating to insurgency struggles, anti-colonialism and political freedom in the UK is assessed and contrasted to the farcical present climate where a 23 year old woman can be incarcerated as a ‘lyrical terrorist’, and both a 16 year old boy and a Nottingham University researcher can face charges of terrorism for downloading material from the world wide web. It will be argued that we might best see this as a kind of bizarre storytelling scenography – where repetition and stereotype do ideological work for security services who have no idea who the real enemy is, or if there is any enemy at all. In demonizing those who would raise critical questions, the ban upon ‘thought crime’ has become very real. And it seems as if the only vocal outcry is musical.

In this context, the work of scholars that search for the meaning of ‘suicide bombing’ lines up alongside that of the MI5 Behavioural Sciences Unit in providing inadequate and insufficient understandings of the current conjuncture. If the opposition communicates in culture, and Whitehall’s Research Information and Communications Unit counter with ‘spin’, we are either in a grave predicament, or everyone is treating this as a game. Denouncing the demonization of Aki Nawaz and the like as equal to the creation of pantomime villains, the presentation will argue for a more engaged critique of “culture” and assess a certain distance or gap between emancipatory political expression and the tamed versions of multiculturalism accepted by/acceptable in the British marketplace.

Invite to the lecture here. [The picture is from the Guardian news report on the MI5 behavioural Science Unit Operational Briefing 'note' which informed us that terrorists are ethnically 'diverse', mostly british nationals, not 'mad and bad' and might be either male or female, young or old, and have a range of qualifications from none to degree-level... Guardian 21.08.08]

Inaugural – Tues Sept 30th, 5.30pm IGLT

You don’t need to print out the ‘enclosed card’ but please do phone or email the address below (and me) if you wish to come. The text, in case its not clear on your screen, reads:

The Warden of Goldsmiths, Professor Geoffrey Crossick, invites you to the Inaugural Lecture by

Professor John Hutnyk
Professor of Cultural Studies

Pantomime Terror: the Paranoid Commuter
and the Danger of Music

30 September 2008 at 5.30pm
Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre

Refreshments will be served after the lecture in the Staffing Dining Room. Acceptances to the Warden’s Office via email: or telephone 020 7919 7033

[update: Lecture version:]

Trinketized Morality Fable

It is not a matter of essences or of reductions as such, but the pantomime and the morality tale, the melodrama and the anecdote, as ideological tricks and rhetoric, are condensations with a perverse intent. They reduce for sure, but it is their economy that makes all this worthwhile, on all sides. Codification saturates all areas, trinketization abounds – the message is telegraphed and as a cipher works all the more. I would like to think that the music promo is an ideal form of this, perhaps in an unguarded moment we could suggest this was a little like zen, or a haiku (Eisenstein glossed via Rancière 2001/2006:25), in that its illustrative material offers so much more than it has to explicitly portray. But there is also a critical component to assimilate. This is true of the scene of pantomime terror where Aki Nawaz is presented as the suicide rapper in The Guardian, just as much as it is the strategy of Aki’s own intervention in ‘Cookbook DIY’ in so many ways. There are criticalities and complicities in the format. Consider ‘Cookbook DIY’ again: of all the masquerade figures in that clip, we need only note that the figure painting the graffito quotation from John F Kennedy is wearing orange overalls, thus referencing Guantanamo, to launch an entire argument. It is of course heavy-handed and didactic, but this is why it works. Quoting a US president as critique of the US Presidency. For the record, the graffiti reads ‘If we make peaceful revolution impossible, we make violent revolution inevitable’. This slogan comes from an address by Kennedy at the White House on March 12 1962. Since a source for this quote must be offered, here is one that has a certain resonance, and perhaps also illustrates the point about condensation. Martin Luther King speaking at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 on the topic of the war in Vietnam, calls for an end to all bombing and recognition of the National Liberation Front and calling for acts of atonement ‘for our sins and errors in Vietnam':

“In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military ‘advisors’ in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable’. Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken – the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment” (King 1967/2007 [my italics]).

As reported by the Information Clearing House, Time Magazine called King’s speech ‘demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi,’ and the Washington Post declared that King had ‘diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people’, but bringing this forward to contemporary times and the reference Aki makes by way of a simple orange jump suit is all we need for hypocrisy to be utterly skewered. There is no justification for the camps, the torture, the rendition and the interrogations. Condensation makes the ‘defenders of freedom’ [and profit] sweat.

And isn’t that why the clergyman King should be quoted, because the critical irony gets us hot under the collar here, in what Rancière identifies as problematic in Eisenstein’s pantomimes (2001/2006: 27) and also in Bertholt Brecht’s identification of the cynical observer with the engaged critic, where the ‘lessons of dialectical pedagogy’ oscillate with the ‘athleticism of the boxing ring or the mockery of the cabaret’ (Ranciere 2001/2006:30). This is a difficulty with the ‘political’ haiku that infects the knowing critic with an irony that remains toothless without mobilization or party organization, and even Rancière’s SOS call to the ‘Battleship Potemkin’ from the prow of ‘The Titanic’ does not save us. The contradiction pierces the heart of the founding fable of brave egalitarian and free America. Thus, the question:

“what century we live in [that we] derive so much pleasure – our Deleuzes in our pockets – from the love affair upon a sinking ship between a young woman in first class and a young man in third’ (Rancière 2001/2006: 31).

Rancière, Jacques 2001/2006 Film Fables, Oxford: Berg.

More on Cookbook DIY.

Queen to abdicate at Christmas??

Last night on Radio Five Live Andrew Bacon show, Aki Nawaz was a guest, along with some pro-royalist toff whose name I refuse to remember, talking about the Honours System in the UK – Knights, Barons, Orders of the British Empire (OBE) and MBE etc. Aki tried to argue for a more creative alternative, but hardly got his point in before Bacon was shamelessly begging to be gonged (we would oblige if we had a big enough hammer mate). All this was in anticipation of a report out today on reforming the Honours System.

Reform. Rubbish – get rid of it.

The first reason to abolish these honours is that its a leftover outdated plug for Empire (yaay Benjamin Z) – if we first of all accept that there is something to the idea of Nation (and I am not sure we can) we should be able to recognise that the idea of honours is bound up with an outdated aristocratic system, which cannot be reformed. It must be abolished, not tinkered with to be made to look human.

A first step to fixing the mess, is to recognise that we need a Republic – where a republic is a state in which “the supreme power resides in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly by them”. This choice should be neither by a paid lackey like the PM, nor by the Queen who seems to think handing out baubles [trinkets] is her most important duty. Pah, it is a hold over from the aristocracy and its got to go – replace it with a public vote along the lines of X-Factor!. While we might want to ensure that democracy can really be democratic – as there is no guarantee of that via phone votes as yet (thanks Ant and Dec), at least getting rid of the monarchy would be a start. Keeping them on just for tourism, and because the queen can gift out knighthoods to rich donors to the dominant parties, is no reason to abandon a say in how we live.

The second issue is about why some people are ‘rewarded’ for services and some are not. There are a great great many people that do selfless work no doubt – but we are all worthy. To single out some as more worthwhile than others is to mock the contribution of us all. Those that do good works – I guess there are some/many who do so selflessly without any conscious thought of gain, but I am sceptical as there is no such thing as a gift (pace Derrida) – surely do not do good works for the reward, for the honour. No, the honour system is sort of like a reality TV show, where honours are handed out to entertainers, where the path of fame glory and celebrity status is the marker of true worth. The Honours Show is a circus and should be treated in a fitting manner, and thus televised (on ITV4).

And thirdly, even if the system were not chucked out right now, there is no-one who really doubts that the honours system is through and through corrupt, it does not even do what it used to say it did. You can buy your honour if you donate enough – and no-one ever thinks the investigations into corruption are going to expose the dirty little secrets that lie underneath. And this is not just about money: Bill Burroughs already skewered it as a rich-list parasite thriving on a manufactured slave mentality:

‘I would love to see… in England “they must” get rid of the idea of this bloody Queen. That bitch. Sitting there soaking up the energy of forty million people. People say “The Queen isn’t important. She’s just a figurehead.” A Figurehead of subservience. A figurehead of kissing her ass. Worthless wench. She should be sweeping floors’ (Burroughs in 1968 in Lotringer 2001: 102).

OK, maybe you will think that’s a mite harsh on a grandma trapped in corgi land – but the infection has to be removed – get a flea collar, call the exterminator, douse the whole thing in bug powder and ship em out to a flat in Blackpool.

But finally and seriously, what really disturbs me most is that the State gives out awards to people in the midst of a global war. Most of us are ignoring this war and its impact on those bombed abroad, and those who suffer here (all our lives are distorted by this war – civil liberties restricted, attacks on muslims, insecurity and fear on the tube/airports/high street, detentions etc). The awards game is an obscene morale boosterism that flies in the face of complicity with death. To give out awards is a way of saying everything is fine. But everything is not fine. It is not ok. It is not OK at all.

Aki managed to get one quip in sideways: “do you think they might give a knighthood to John Lydon?”. God Saves.

[Pic: Lydon site and interview].

Terrorvisionaries (part two)

A talk at Nottingham University Politics department last night gave me a chance to elaborate my worries over new media anthropology in South Asia, pantomime terror and the hanging channel – following on from the talks I’ve given about the Mohammed Afzal case and the DIY Cookbook video from Fund^da^mental. The notes below presume you have read the earlier posts which are linked at the relevant points (sorry, a bit clumsy and it presumes a lot eh – still, these are notes to myself really – just a little more public than usual – but then all our data seems to be very very public these days, thanks to the chancellor and the lost personal details from the Child Support Agency – ha).

Televisonaries (part one) here should be read first, then come back here to read this post, but half way through slot in the DIY Cokbook and Bus posts as indicated after about four paragraphs…

‘Terrorvisionaries (part two)':

The second example of cross platform public media storytelling is a diasporic one that involves my British-Pakistani mate Aki Nawaz. I have detailed the Aki story elsewhere, so merely refer you again to the links here.

In “Echographies of Television” (Derrida and Steigler) Derrida notes that televisual recording both captures immediacy more and can be more readily edited and manipulated, such that there will need to be a change in the legal axiomatics of the courts (p97 and 93). There is much that Derrida has to say of interest on television, the archive and justice, but sometimes Gayatri Spivak is much better on Derridean themes than Derrida himself. She apparently was working on the text of the Mahabharata – let us hope she will take it up again, and perhaps share views on elder brother Karna. Though he is not exactly subaltern, his position on the side of the Kauravas is at least interesting and the archival exclusion is operative, gridded over by a counter-female patriarchy and, as national and global reworkings of the narratives insert stories onto developmental teleology, neoliberal hype as well. The archive in Spivak is difficult, requires more effort than we usually can manage (‘more’ – persistent, language learning, privilege-unlearning, patient, painstaking scholarship) but her work on terror, suicide bombings and planetary justice is inspirational.

On the telematic, Spivak is more epistemological than Derrida – for her media would be something like knowledge, reason, responsibility, and so something to be conjured with, interrupted in a persistent effort of the teacher through critique to rearrange ordained and pre-coded desires. Not just to fill up on knowledge but to further transnational literacy and an ethics of the other. On terror: the ethical interrupts the epistemological. There is a point at which the construction of the other as object of knowledge must be challenged: ‘the ethical interrupts [law, reason] imperfectly, to listen to the other as if it were a self’ (Spivak 2004:83 “Boundary 2″, summer 80-111).

The task suggested here that seems most difficult to get our heads around is to accept complicity in a way that makes possible an identification, ‘alive to visible injustice’ (Spivak 2004:89) as well as ‘not to endorse suicide bombing but to be on the way to its end’ (Spivak 2004:93). Is there a message we can hear without an automatic move towards punishment or acquittal? Here the ethical and archival task of knowledge is to learn to learn what is in the mind, and what is the desire (or motivation?) of the suicide bomber. DIY Cookbook does something like this in a different way.

7/7 – buses, camera phones – Aki in the Guardian, backpacks, Charles De Menezes, DIY Video. As already riffed in the earlier posts on the Buses and on DIY Cookbook, here and here

Then return to the current post to continue:

The point is that here again an anthropology of media can be said to have made important moves to acknowledge cross platform significance in the media – saturated India – but also we might note that the acknowledgement that music tracks are a crucial make or break component of Bollywood film marketing only barely begins to get at the range of issues to be discussed in this field today.

The war on terror has achieved something that was previously only hinted at, partial, or only aspirational with regard to the place of South Asia in the world. Blown forcefully into the frontal lobe attention of all political actors, the obscurity of the previous Afghan wars, the regional nuclear detente, the peasant insurgencies or rural and hill tribals, these are no longer ignored. Front and centre, Islam on display, Pakistan a strategic player, India on alert. What multiculturalism and Bollywood could do only in a marginal and somewhat exotic way is exploded by a new visibility. But this is not just a media scare. Visibility maters where something is done with it – it is the first opportunity for a politics of redress that would build upon this (global) attention.

Call centres, news media, satellite, language, popular culture, tourism, humour, obscenity, gender, sex, digitization (of tradition), software and diaspora (India 2.0) all this suggests that media studies in this area are taking a broader scope and have advanced beyond the ‘coming of age’ stories that greeted Ramayana and Mahabharata, live cricket, and Bollywood on cable. This is to be welcomed.

Yet all is not rosy in storytelling land.

For all the publicity Sarai has garnered, it remains a small operation run out of CSDS. What it stands for however is more important – a still somewhat neglected area of academic and creative interest, deeply marked by a version of a technological cringe – the idea that new media is somehow new to India – and that the old politics are not also played out in the new news formats.

The exotic story of the new media arrival is the same orthodox binary obscurantism that ensures that stories of India abroad are either about rustic romance and tradition, morality, and colourful clothing, or else they are the dark side of communal violence, suicide bombing and disaster – the mismanaged nation post departure of the British, or blamed on Islam/Pakistan/Moguls/or Maoists. More nuanced positions are lost in favour of ‘the invisible or the hypervisible (stereotype)’ (Gopinath 2005:42). The ideological message here is that an India untainted by the ravages of imperial plunder might be preferred, and the NDTV ideal would have the Mahatma reading the news, but unfortunately the crisis is upon us, and in a flap chaos prevails. Anthropologists join the military effort (New York Times October 2007).

If we were to understand this material not only in juridical terms, or as requiring a transformation of the protocols of legal evidence and admissibility (no doubt this is necessary, as Derrida says), but also recognising that comprehension of media storytelling perhaps requires an appreciation of a wider sweep of mythological knowledge or epistemological reference (as Spivak might suggest), then to read the stories of Aki Nawaz as pantomime, or Mohammed Afzal as melodrama is somehow also warranted. This is not to disavow or diminish the urgent politics around the immediacy of these events – to challenge the demonization of Muslims in Britain, to oppose the death penalty and torture, to defend an individual from trial by media. But it is also to recognise something that shifts at a more general media level, where journalism gives way to SMS poll popularity, court procedures mimic docu-drama, tabloid sensations become the tactics of security services and similar.

To develop this is to recognise how patterns of melodrama and performance are played out in the way these events come to our attention. The pantomime season at Christmas is now matched with a sinister twin in July that commemorates the bus bombings with an equally ideological storytelling round – teaching kids fear and hate just as much as Christmas teaches them commoditization. The idea that pantomime is educational, rather than Orientalist – Sinbad, Ali Baba, Aladdin – is just as much training in stereotype and profiling as are the melodramatic terror alerts each July (and September). These are constructed ‘panics’, each no doubt grounded in real evidence, solid intelligence, and careful analysis by Special Branch and MI5 – as Charles de Menezes and Mohammed Afzal both surely can attest. Aki Nawaz as ‘suicide rapper’ might almost be funny if it were not symptomatic of a wider malaise and complicity in our media reportage – a failure to examine critically and contextually what is offered up to us as unmediated ‘news’. What did it say on the side of the bus if not ‘Total Film’?

One way perhaps to disrupt the walled enclave or ‘green zone’ that is civil society, polite discussion and public commons also known as the privileged space of television news might be to hark back to older storytelling forms.

Its 30 years since Edward Said delivered Orientalism and though I might have some quibbles with what has happened in the wake of that text (too many historical studies, not enough now) I do believe it alerts us to something important and not yet nearly resolved. I can’t help but think looking to old texts might help us rethink new ones – hence the Mahabharata and the Arabian Nights as away to refocus television…

The Mahabharata rehearses a fratricidal drama that tears everyone apart. Pakistan and India are not referenced there, but the tale of brothers split and fighting is a well worn trope, such that I think its time to move to other stories as a break. For me, its not so easy, inducted into the Arabian nights as a child, I feel betrayed because…

Instead, I imagine Roshan Sethi as a new kind of despotic Shahjah, entertaining Scheherezade only by email or SMS – because she was caught, detained and then by ‘special rendition’ she was interred in Guantanamo Bay, she texts out intermittently to Roshan. Forlorn drunken fool, her anguished reports reveal her having been interrogated all day yet again to the Gitmo Military Intelligence. This version of the 1001 nights is particularly obscene, but because Omar’s father is drunk in bed, watching Bollywood reruns, or Stephen Frears’ later fluff, the story just cannot get out. This is politics, its good to think something might more might be done today.

The character played by Roshan Seth might rant against the kind of journalism that enables this new cretinized media propaganda, but more than sozzled rants are required.

[image is the Nation logo - it should be spinning but blogger can't cope]

apple is apple

There was a chap in Calcutta back in the late 1980s who insisted that all religions were ‘the same’. He’d often say over and over: ‘apple is apple – one apple one god’. It seemed profound at the time, and I wished I’d remembered that today when I was giving a talk at Columbia University Ethnomusicology department (I’m not 100% sure that is the official name of the dept -thanks Tylor for organising – do see their mag Current Musicology). The issue at stake was whether comrade Aki Nawaz saw himself as some sort of representative of Muslim youth. I think not, even if Aki has been known to say stuff like ‘Islam is a more serious kind of punk’, its not always necessary to mark everything out in terms of the mainstream gut-reaction oppositions of the day, even so Fun^da^mental can speak as often from a ‘Muslim perspective’ as from any other. I see no problem with that given the amount of time, say, the Police are not asked if they are speaking from the perspective of the forces or order, I mean as Christians. I mean, isn’t that what keeps Sting going, despite all the Buddhist claptrap he is want to spout for sales purposes? (I know I know, that is hardly fair – ah well – but their reforming and playing here just means they are deserving some degree of lampooning. That old story of Burroughs, when introduced to the band, telling his friends to get rid of any gear they might be holding, still deserves a wry smile).

Speaking at Columbia was fun, in a well-kitted out room (projector, sound, stereo system all working flawlessly). Suffice to say the discussion was engaging, and had much to do with relative degrees of irony in politics (the talk was about hip hop and politics in the UK – surprise). Discussion helped along by Charity Scribner and David Graeber (soon joining Goldsmiths), an interesting PhD candidate called Tim, Stephanie the super-assistant, and of course the wonderful Sherilyn. We then repaired to 20-10 (??) for drinks, baseball, the worlds largest pizza slices, and disturbingly potent free drinks from the barman also called Tim (who seemed to like playing Steve Miller songs much more than is reasonable).

Before having to trek back uptown to retrieve a key to Charity’s flat because I had mixed up the originals I had cut this morning (for a dollar), I found this charming mark (see picture) someone had written in the concrete near the corner of Christopher St and 7th. Awwwww. How idealistic and romantic is that? No initials, no slogan – though this pavement mark was alongside a wallposter which read: ‘Slow down and smell the Garbage – NY easy’. Says a lot I think, in these humid summer days. I can hear Frank singing something about the city having been named twice or something.

On to High Falls.

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:
Fun-da-Mental - Cookbook D.I.Y by bbpradi0]


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


Pantomime Terrors – DIY Cookbook

After friday’s absolutely great Dis-Orient X event which went off so well – thanks to ALL concerned… now I’m on the way to Magdeburg to talk about the new Fun-Da-Mental video, so, a few more notes (actually these were nutted out on the way to Stockholm last week – added to the ever growing file)…

A discussion of new work by diasporic world music stalwarts Fun-da-mental and the drum and bass outfit Asian Dub Foundation, relating to insurgency struggles, anti-colonialism and political freedom in the UK. The presentation will argue for an engaged critique of “culture” and assess a certain distance or gap between political expression and the tamed versions of multiculturalism accepted by/acceptable in the British marketplace. Examples from the music industry reception of ‘difficult’ music and creative engagement are evaluated in the context of the global terror wars.

I increasingly find it problematic to write analytically about “diaspora and music” at a time of war. It seems inconsequential; the culture industry is not much more than a distraction; a fairy tale diversion to make us forget a more sinister amnesia behind the stories we tell. This paper nonetheless takes up debates about cultural expression in the field of diasporic musics in Britain. It examines instances of creative engagement with, and destabilisation of, music genres by Fun^da^mental and Asian Dub Foundation, and it takes a broadly culture critique perspective on diasporic creativity as a guide to thinking about the politics of hip-hop in a time of war.
Pantomime Terroisms:

Thinking about pantomime terror deserves a little historical play. The popular christmas and summer holiday entertainment form has roots in vaudville and melodrama and might also be traced back through French mime, Italian Commedia dell’arte, or even to Roman mythology and the flutes of the god Pan.[1] A more detailed history of course would have to contend with the relation of the Pied Piper of Hammelin to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, with issues of role reversal, double entendre, drag, slapstick, superstitions (left side of the stage for demons, right side for fairy princesses), and theatre ghosts if not more. The trajectory within the pantomime archive that I find most relevant here would start with Scheherezade and the stories of A Thousand And One Nights, the first ‘proper book’ I owned as a child – illustrated with lavish pictures of Sinbad the Sailor, various alluring princesses on flying horses or magic carpets, Alladin and his lamp, and of course Ali Baba and the forty thieves. That Sherezade had to tell devious stories to evade death at the handsof the despotic King Shahrya is only the first of the points at which Edward Said-style critiques of Orientalism would need to be deployed. Wicked and conniving traders outfoxed by fantastically beautiful maidens told as fairy tales to children but barely disguising the violence at the heart of the stories themeselves did certain ideological duty. My problem with Said however has always been that these effects are not just literary and historical, even as a wealth of historical research was released in the wake of Said’s texts. Today however pantomime seems to play an even more sinister role.

The ghost that is ‘behind you’ in today’s panto is the sleeper cell living and working amongst us, travelling on the tube, preparing to wreak havoc and destruction unannounced. Ali Baba is the despot holding the west ransom to the price of a barrel of oil; Sinbad is Osama, with a secret cave to which only he knows the secret opening code words: ‘open sesame’. The fears that are promulgated here are of course childish terrors and stereotype, but the problem with sterotype is their maddening ability to transcend reason and keep on poping back up to scare us. This is not a place for thinking, its theatre. We might consider the repetition of the historical as seen in Marx’s study of Louis Bonepart in the Eighteenth Brumaire: the second time history repeats it returns as high farce.[2] The need for someone to write the brumaire of Blair is pressing. It suggests to me a speculative dream version of sheherezade; who has been detained, rendered and interned in Guantanamo. Kept on her own in a cell except for a daily interrogation when she is brought before her captors who demand a story. She obliges them with the production of a narrative that provokes ever more draconian civil liberties crackdowns and higher and higher terror alert ratings in the metropolises, but the production of this narrative can never set her free and she will never become queen (Blair and Bush are already hitched to each other, and perhaps to history in the same way Nixon was to Watergate and defeat in Vietnam). Although, my dreaming of Sheherezade is only a conceit – yet a thousand and one terrors assail us all.


In the video for DIY Cookbook, pantomime characters make the argument. There are three verses. The first entails a cross-of-St-George-wearing youth constructing a strap-on bomb from a recipe downloaded from the internet. He is dressed as a rabbit and as a lizard in parts of the verse, playing on childlike toys and fears; the second verse references the Muslim scholar and the figure of the armed guerrilla as the character relates a more cynical employment as a mercenary making a ‘dirty bomb’ with fission materials bought on the black market in Chechnya or some such; the third pantomime figure is the respectable scientist discussed in RamParts by Dave, here the scientist in a lab coat morphs into a member of the Klu Klux Klan and then a suited business man, building a neutron bomb that destroys people ‘but leaves the buildings intact’. Pantomime allows Aki to point out the hypocrisy of an Empire with no clothes. The terrors we are offered every night on the news are pantomime terrors as well, a performance melodrama, operatically grandiose. The scale they require – weapons of mass destruction; Saddam’s show trial – is exaggerated in a way that welcomes oblique internalization. These figures are patently absurd, yet all the more effective as incitements.

See the video here:
Fun-da-Mental – Cookbook D.I.Y by bbpradi0

[1] James L. Miller 1978 ‘Review of Roman Pantomime: Practice and Politics by Frank W. D. Reis in Dance Research Journal, Vol. 11, No. 1/2 (1978-1979), pp. 52-54
[2] Marx’s Eigtheenth Brumaire is by far the most eloquent articulation of class and ideological politics available – the classic phrases are well known ‘they cannot represent themselves, they must be represented’, ‘potatoes in a sack’, let the dead bury the dead’ and so on. See the translation by James Martin for Pluto Press 2002.


‘If you don’t buy this record I’ll jump out of these speakers and rip yer bloody arms off
– Aunty Jack –

The stage persona of Aunty Jack, a long forgotten 1970s Australian television comedian and recording artist, was a cartoon version of anti-conscription, anti-Vietnam War, feminist era (?) cross-dressing, making a parody of commercially and threatening violence. There is nothing but harmless humour in his/her performance, a pantomime figure in a scene where everyone knows the musician cannot jump out of the speaker and force you to buy a record, or make you do anything much at all. Sure, this played on parental fears of the susceptibility of youth to get caught up in the latest crazed anti-disestablishmentarian stunt (Aunty rode a Harley Davidson Motorcycle, was a sort of renegade pirate type, swore on prime time tv, etc). But such pathetic fears had, I would argue, little to do with the fears that are presented to us in the mainstream media of today, deflecting any alternative discussion of politics, meanings and issues in the world of performance as such. Panto has turned much more brutal. I want to examine this and take the figure of Panto seriously. Is it merely a conceit to think that, for mine, it is a good thing that comedy music novelty acts could cross borders and tests limits, could take risks and suggest (im)possibilities that challenge, that sometimes had a life of their own, irrespective of the boundaries some might prefer to erect so as to confine or control? I used to think the counter-establishment charge of renegade panto made a lot more sense than the antics of those in power, but now I have to recognise that its just as much the case that Panto has changed, that its become the News.

In the present era, Aunty Jack is no longer remembered (see here, and do not miss the classic ‘Fish milkshakes’). Nowadays new figures of fun have a more sinister underside, and yet the underside does much more politically than the mischief of my beloved fat rebel Aunt. Aki Nawaz is portrayed as a cartoon ‘suicide rapper’ in newspapers like The Sun and The Guardian, but he also gets across a previously unheard and unwelcome message about the hypocrisy of the so-called ‘war on terror’. Soon he is invited (and invited back) onto BBC news roundtable discussions. I think this visibility means there is no danger of him being arrested anytime soon. But that he has taken it a step further, and managed to raise some issues, does not mean that other pantomime events have been displaced. The spectacle (lower case) of Mr and Mrs Bush placing a wreath in a wading pool at the base of former WTC last evening was bizarre. This is not cross dressing, but crocodile tears – the bombing of the Towers was of course reprehensible whoever did it (conspiracy theorists here here and everywhere) but, rather than offer more pics of Bush looking edgy, I think its more important to listen to Gore Vidal and his concern with the ‘the destruction of the Republic’ as inaugurated after 11 Sept 2001 in the guise of Homeland Security; Guantanamo; Rendition; endorsement of torture etc., (Vidal quips re ‘Homeland Security’ that the term is reminiscent of the Third Reich – ‘Der Homeland’ was not a phrasing he had heard from an American before ‘it was forced on us’ by the Government). This was on BBC radio today – Vidal self-styled as ‘spokesman for Carthage on Roman radio’, defender of ‘the Constitution’ against the oil and gas tyranny, and against the collusive ‘dreadful media’. We have not just lost some buildings, far worse is that we lost the Republic.

Well, perhaps the Republic was also always a Panto scene in the USA anyway. But the Panto wreath-laying of Bush and Bush makes me think also of Alain Badiou, in Infinite Thought, pointing out the non-equivalence of terror directed at a couple of buildings by a non-State entity (‘the terrorists’), and the retribution that is visited on all of our lives by the State Terror directed by US Forces; directed first at peasants, villagers and the dispossessed everywhere, but also directed at those in the ‘we’ through security legislation and so on. (Badoiu’s essay on terror in that book is one of the best I have read). That the terror extends to covert activity by secret service agencies; includes surveillance operations; plethora of dark underworld gadgetry etc; removes all vestige of civil liberties; and prepares us for perpetual war is only the logical consequence of – face it – our anti-war demonstrations, even when 2 million, being also only a kind of panto. We marched to hide in Hyde Park (‘he’s behind you’) and sat down tired to rest, when we should have sat on Blair and not moved till he resigned. He’s still there, clinging on in a rerun of Punch and Judy forever.

This does not man I want to bring back the days when Panto was just a cute summer entertainment.

Nor do I want to mock the city of New York today. There is a hole in the heart there, and its gives me pain to think of that place, and my lost friend and comrade Imogen too – we discussed this so often after she left for New School, and we once walked together to the site debating wars of terror, organisational questions, the purpose of demonstrations and the limits/betrayals of the Stop the War coalition (but our debates were never panto, no no). I cannot but think of personal pain and this place together, and then extend it to the pain endured throughout the world on behalf of those who want retribution. The Oil court of King George being the most dangerous terror cell of all.

The pic above of the Ground Zero site (as the whole planet – isn’t that quite amazing for a worlding of the world) is by Vincent Laforet for the New York Times.

The picture to the side here is of Kid Eager (Garry McDonald), Aunty Jack (Grahame Bond) and Thin Arthur (Rory O’Donoghue).

(and the song below even comes with guitar chords – strum along).

Farewell Aunty Jack,
We know you’ll be back
Though you’re 10 feet tall
You don’t scare us at all
You’re big, bold and tough
But you’re not so rough
There’s a scream as she plummets away (‘allo me little luvlies) .


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