This Is What We Believe In
Photo by James BunoanSept. 11 made punk rock put its militancy where its mouth is: after America entered a permanent yellow alert, criticizing the government wasn't quite so simple. Heela Naqshband even remembers punk kids wondering if they should turn their flag patches upside-down—which for every not-punk American means right-side up.
But Afghan-born Naqshband and her husband, Shahab Zargari, think progressive kids need to stick to their politics now more than ever. So Naqshband and Zargari—who, with about a half-dozen friends, run a punk label called Geykido Comet Records out of a Fullerton apartment—stepped in to help the sometimes-overlooked victims of the war on terrorism. Their recent compilation CD, Dropping Food on Their Heads Is Not Enough, is a fund-raiser for both the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) and the Afghan Women's Mission (AWM).
"Different labels were doing benefits for the New York victims," says Heela, "but what no one realized is that the people of Afghanistan, particularly women and children, had been suffering for years."
It's not a side of the story the mass media likes to tell, they explain. Once you get past Osama bin Laden (who, lest we forget, isn't Afghan) to the dubious relief efforts ("Dropping food into a country full of land mines," Heela sighs), information on Afghanistan sort of peters out. And that's where Geykido Comet (GC) comes in.
Amnesty International calls it "the world's largest forgotten tragedy," Heela writes in the liner notes to Dropping Food on Their Heads Is Not Enough. "I call it my homeland."
"In the early '70s, Afghanistan was where all the hippies would go for opium," says Shahab. "They had roads, schools—the French were building colleges there."
"My mom had miniskirts; my dad wore bellbottoms. It was pretty modern for being so far away from the West," says Heela. "And then it just disintegrated. And all I know is the disintegration part."
It's hard to grow up not knowing anything about your country, Heela says. When she was born in 1979, the Soviets were on the way in, and anyone who possibly could was on their way out—including her parents, who never planned to settle permanently in America. They were so sure they'd be home soon that they almost left baby Heela in Afghanistan, taking her only at her grandmother's urging. She has never been back—but she still wanted to help.
She stuck with her brain-draining customer-service job until she got a $2,000 bonus for a year's service. She quit the next day, and that's where the compilation CD came from. Half the proceeds—not just the profits, but half of every damn dollar that comes into GC—will go to RAWA and AWM, and Shahab and Heela hope every CD sold will raise both funds and awareness of the real situation in Afghanistan.
"Even now, it's dated," Shahab admits. "The inserts talk about all the shit the Taliban did, and they're already ousted. But still, no one here knows what the fuck they did over there, so it raises awareness that way. I'm hoping people get this in their hands and go, 'Shit, if all of this information is what we've been missing, what the fuck else have we not been told?'"
And Dropping Food fits in nicely with the rest of GC's roster, an impressive cross-section of punky sub-subcultures—crust punk, pop punk, garage punk, punk punk—with such locals as Anaheim's Bikini Bumps, Fullerton's Voids, Long Beach's Ciril and Laguna Hills' ESL bumping chords with big-deal bands like Anti-Flag, Chumbawamba and even Jello Biafra himself. Heela says it's part of the label's effort to put a little substance into OC's superficial style—and to counter a sometimes-vapid youth culture.
"We live down the street from the Nixon library!" she laughs. "It's so conservative here, despite what MTV says about all the 'cool bands' or whatever."
"The way we at GC look at ourselves is that we're really an alternative to the 'alternative' in OC," says Shahab. "Not that we're the only ones, but when this type of thing comes out of OC, it's like, 'What?' But this is what we're into—and this is what we believe in."
Dropping Food on Their Heads Is Not Enough is available for $8 from GC Records, P.O. Box 3743, Laguna Hills, CA 92654; www.gcrecords.com.