MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Check out Kawtim - the rock album opposing police brutality, misconduct


The issue of police brutality has come to the fore again in 2021, with custodial deaths and the arrests of participants at a candlelight vigil being just some of the incidents that have sounded the alarm among human rights watchers.

Tired of constantly hearing press reports to that effect, some young musicians have banded together to release the album Kawtim Compilation Against Brutality and Misconduct.

It houses nine tunes, such as Custody by Viona, Brutal by Nik Jidan (featuring The Bangsart & Pyanhabib Rahman) and No Babylon by dub-reggae outfit King I & the EasyBaba Sound.

This album compilation will be released on audio and video streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and Youtube, said its producer Mohammad Abdullah Alshatri, who is also an activist with human rights group Suaram.

“While Suaram had long condemned and campaigned against police brutality and misconduct, and calling for reform in our policing system, we find that it is still taboo for the public to discuss such issues openly.

“Although people realise that it’s affecting them some way or another, there are some degrees of fear and self-censorship when talking about it.

“This is because Malaysia has a history of policing such debates and people do realise there is a certain risk if they wish to discuss such things publicly. For instance, you may be subjected to investigation under various suppressive laws such as the Sedition Act and Communication and Multimedia Act,” he told Malaysiakini.

Abdullah said art, on the other hand, has always been used as a powerful tool for change to discuss pressing societal problems.

“From the anti-war movement in the 60s, the punk movement in the 70s and going forward in our contemporary time, art had always been politically used to combat oppression and discrimination.

“So, in my opinion, art can be utilised in any kind of advocacy work or resistance movement. That’s why I approached the bands and artists to produce an album compilation against police brutality and misconduct,” he added.

Although all the artists involved are from the younger generation, the album features numerous genres of music from folk, punk, reggae, rap and electropop.

“Maybe previously, only some genres of music were more associated with political struggles and the fight against oppression.

“Still, these artists have proven that they can turn social issues into any genre of music. They are always aware of social issues, advocate for changes, and are critical of oppression and discrimination both locally and internationally,” he said.

Despite the Covid-19 situation hindering face-to-face interaction, Abdullah shared that the artists were still able to work on the project through the use of technology.  

“Getting this album done given the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic was quite a challenge and involved many home recordings and exchanges of individual tracks via email.

“We managed to get everyone to record in their own capacity, submitting it for editing, mixing, and mastering. This was Suaram’s own initiative as part of our ongoing campaign," he added. 

Mohamad said he chose kawtim, which is a Cantonese phrase meaning “to settle”, as part of the album titled as he thought it was apt for the cause. 

“In Malaysia, I think this word was also used to describe settling something outside of the law or through corruption. This is to describe the culture of corruption within our law enforcement agencies.

“In this case, Suaram and all the artists involved had to ‘kawtim’ to produce this compilation to fight against brutality and misconduct,” he added.

Shh…diam is perhaps the best-known band on the recording and has contributed the song Too Slow for Me.

Describing themselves as a four-piece queer band that writes songs poking fun at anti-LGBT statements and government-endorsed propaganda, they also write about fruits, horses and other things they like.

“We are sick of the police abusing their power. They are never held accountable for their actions and so many have died in custody with no repercussions.

“We are sick of being bullied by the police. No one trusts them, and these are people who are supposed to keep us safe.

“We are sick of being asked for bribes and being accused of crimes we did not commit. It’s always a case of guilty until proven innocent, and until then, we are at their mercy,” they told Malaysiakini.

"They do whatever they want to us, even deny us our basic rights,” they added.

Long-time fans will be surprised to hear something a little different from the group.

“This is fresh out of the oven. It’s not our usual style, but we felt an issue like death in custody shouldn’t be taken lightly.

“This is for the families of those killed in custody for no reason,” they said. - Mkini

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