WHITE CITY (AFGHANISTAN): FROM BUNKERS TO BIG IN STAN.

Well, it would be quite a foolish act to try to stop the flow of a river as we know it’s just literally impossible and  MUSIC is no different especially when there is an act of subjugation and a need to break out free.

White City is  one such band from Kabul, Afghanistan comprising of three members (occasionally four) from three different countries who came to Afghanistan on various missions and ended up forming a ‘Kabul Kore Retro Rock Punk’ (as the band likes to describe their music) band. BUT the rock music is not only limited within the foreigners visiting the war torn country, it is fast thriving among the Afghan youths as well and currently you can, not surprisingly, find Rock and Metal bands coming out of their shells.

We can completely imagine/understand the problem/hindrance that every Rock/Metal bands faces in all corners of the world but it can be a little too hard for an average Afghan citizens to form a band in complete western configuration and its nothing short of revolution or an act of revolt against a society once ruled by an atrocious Taliban regime where listening to music was taken as an act of crime and may be that conservative believe still persists there.

We respect and support all the Afghan bands for what they are doing despite the odds. We salute their guts and the devotion.

Few weeks back I caught up with the gorgeous Ruth Owen (Ru) and talked about White City and the Afghan scene. Here’s how it went: (as I sat down to post this I came to know that Ru has broken her finger tripping over a dog :(, I (we) wish her a quick recovery)

-Hey RU, how you doing? What’s up with White City?

Hey there! White City are getting ready for the second annual Sound Central Festival this September – it’s the first rock festival in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban and the only pan-Central Asian modern music festival. We’ve also invited the Nepali band Albatross to the festival.

-It’s quite awesome to know about a band from Afghanistan and on top of that you guys are so good. Tell us how it all started? I am sure people would love to know the story.

Well, all three members came to Afghanistan for work, but ended up playing music in their spare time. White City was originally a covers band co-founded in 2006 by Andronik. Travka joined in 2008 and I came along in 2009. The band’s seen about 20 people come and go, due to the transient nature of ex-pat workers in Afghanistan, but in 2009 we decided to start writing our own songs and from the positive reaction we’ve got so far, it wasn’t a bad idea. Then came the idea of a Central Asian-wide tour and that really sealed the three-piece White City sound.

-RU, there were numerous line-up changes in the band and you only joined the band much later. You were also involved in a British band called Echobelly. How did you end up joining White City?

I came to Afghanistan thinking I was done with playing music, but when I heard White City had just lost their lead singer, I was curious enough to see what they were all about. Travka didn’t initially believe that there was a bass-playing girl singer in town and that it was just a rumour, but I turned out to be true!

-How hard is it for all of you to keep the band intact? I mean, based on the things that the average people of the world hear about Afghanistan, it must be a hell of a challenge?

It can be hard, but it’s more to do with problems with equipments – importing it, repairing it and the lack of dedicated music venues in Afghanistan. Yes, security can be a challenge, but only because we can’t widely promote our concerts – everything is by word of mouth.

-All of the members are not the Afghanistan Native, how do the aboriginals there take you guys? Is it hard/easy to convince them that what you are doing is good?

There are quite a few Afghan rock and metal bands now – in fact they out-number the foreign bands. That’s not to say rock and metal are widely accepted across the country – most Afghans will say the country’s not ready for that, but there’s a very dedicated and progressive metal and rock scene here in Kabul (if small)- and it’s mainly Afghan. Foreign music is popular here – from pop and hip-hop to soft rock, you’ll hear a wide variety of tunes coming from people’s cars, but, like many countries, heavy and aggressive music is often misunderstood and mistrusted.

-Tell us how do the environment and the incidents around you have influenced the band’s music? ‘Petrol is free if you can steal it’ is a pretty intriguing statement by the band.

Actually that specific lyric was a reaction to Travka telling me about the problems in Australia with aboriginal youth sniffing petrol. However, it has also become an adroit wider statement about the motivations behind invasions of countries by foreign forces – not just Afghanistan. I take my inspiration from Afghanistan, but not just the conflict. I try and put myself in other people’s shoes – from suicide bombers to hired mercenaries. I want to try and imagine myself in their shoes and attempt to understand their motivations. I may not agree with them, but I think it’s worth trying to understand.

-Now tell us about the band’s Jamming and recording sessions? Heard you guys jam inside a bunker.

Lol. Yeah – our original rehearsal space was called the Tora-Bora bunker, as we soundproofed it with sandbags. However, the secondary appeal of that is that it would double as a bomb shelter. There are rarely attacks of that sort in Kabul, however, so it was more of a joke than an actual need.

-Tell us about the ‘Big in the Stans’ tour? How did it happen?

BITS started off as a joke that, as an Afghan based band, we should tour our local neighbourhood, just like any other band. Then the idea came that we should attempt every country ending in ‘stan. White City had visited Tajikistan in 2008, before I joined, so that was an obvious starting point. It just snowballed from there – we were pleasantly surprised to find that these countries: Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, had thriving and talented rock scenes that were starved of foreign bands visiting.

-What is White City’s ambition at this point of time? Are you guys committed to hold on to the band for a much longer time or is it just something you will be doing temporarily until you go back to your home countries?

Like any musicians, we can’t live by music alone, but that doesn’t mean we’re not committed to making the band the best it can be. If we were able to survive by touring or releasing records, of course we’d drop everything and do that in a heartbeat. And we’ve all been living and working in foreign countries, I think none of us really consider our native countries “home” anymore, anyway.

-Any thing that we should look forward to in recent future by W C?

The Sound Central Festival, the third leg of the BITS tour in October, which will visit Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazkhkstan, our next release sometime around October and…well…maybe one day we’ll get to play Nepal. It’s not too far away!

-Well thank you very much for the time, We here at DSU/Brutal Pokhara wish the best of time/future to White City and to the Afghan Rock/Metal scene.

Rock on. \m/ \m/

-Zivon Gurung

You can listen to their songs on their REVERBNATION PAGE.

Here’s a video for their song Space Cadet:

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