We’re playing our first gig on the Big In The Stans tomorrow in Kabul, Afghanistan. We’re using imagery based on the classic Big Muff pedal for our flyers. If you don’t know the Big Muff, tremble in its wake, for it is awesome. And the original ones were made from old Russian tanks, which means they have plenty of raw material here in Afghanistan.
Real flyer will be posted tomorrow after the gig, you know, for security and all that.
Whaddaya mean, you’ve never heard of a Big Muff.
Ru: I remember being in Goa, India when I was a teenager in one of the big beach bazaars. It was my first experience haggling and I was just sealing the deal on a beautiful skirt, which I still have. As I handed over money, I overheard a loud tourist demanding of one of the stallholders, “that’s not a local price, though, is it? That’s not what you people pay!”. This man was tall, large and sported an expensive pair of Boss sunglasses. Even at my tender age, I remember thinking what a ridiculous premise that was – that, since you’re visiting a country, you should automatically pay local prices, even if you earn ten times as much. Now when I go on holiday, I don’t haggle too much about the price. A little, of course, but I don’t mind paying a more than local people.
Here in Afghanistan, foreigners don’t pay local tax. The government’s just not developed enough and there are enough international loopholes to get out of it if they did. They also don’t pay tax back home, so there’s more money sloshing around their pockets than usual. Local Afghans, naturally, do their bit to set the balance right by inflating prices for foreigners. So far, so good economics.
The problem comes when international organisations pay ridiculously inflated prices without even blinking an eye. They’ll just pay whatever locals demand, without any negotiation. That leads to a situation like Kabul rents, where for an individual room in a guesthouse, you’re looking at a base-rate of $1000 a month, excluding bills, which, for internet alone can be anything up to an extra $500-800 a month.
As long as the international organisations are happy to pay, this state of affairs get normalised and it’s expected that kharijis (foreigners) not only can but SHOULD pay much larger prices.
Then you get a situation like the other day, where our electricity company suddenly decided that, as White City are a bunch of foreigners, we should pay khariji prices. It’s not exactly put as such – they say that since foreigners live in a house, the house must be ‘commercial’ instead of ‘residential’ and no amount of showing them our bedrooms and bathroom will convince them otherwise.
We don’t mind paying more. We’re visitors in the country and we should pay our share of tax to the economy. But when the bills are quadrupled, it’s hard for a bunch of musicians to foot the bill. We’re not whining about it – of course we’ll pay the bill and feed our electric guitars and the Afghans deserve to earn what they get out of the occupation. But once these international organisations leave, it’s going to be a big shock to the economy of Kabul. I suppose it’s too much to ask for them to have some sense about it.
Ru: A lot of what White City does is with the help with and under the umbrella of Combat Comms: an ‘anonymous international collective bringing new art forms to Afghanistan’s youth’.
From graffiti projects to video collages, Combat Comms has supported White City from the start with our photos and live shows and means we’re not just making music in isolation – we’re working with artists, videographers, journalists, musicians and more. Kabul has a thriving art and music scene often involving fusion between Afghan and international style. Check out Combat Comms’ site by clicking on the icon to the right and you might be surprised at what goes on here in Kabul.
Talking of multimedia - here’s an old radio documentary I made in London as a student about black rock music. It’s very rough around the edges and a bit out of date, but the interviews are still interesting.
White City started out as a covers band five years ago, but soon got bored of playing Lynyard Skynard and Van Morrison on demand.
As is the way in Afghanistan, people come and go. Here is a roll of honour of all the people who have helped make White City great.
James: Vinyl DJ
Clement: Trumpet and harmonica
Trygve: Guitar, bass and banjo
Alain: Bass guitar
Richard: Bass guitar
Keep checking for new demos and live sessions
Welcome to the all new White City blog. This is where the band will be sharing their touring, gigging, recording and general band exploits.
White City are a three-sometimes-four-piece rock band formed in Kabul, Afghanistan.
After playing in and around Kabul for five years, first as a cover band, then writing originals, the band decided to hit the road in 2011 and attempt to play every country ending in ‘stan.
Over the next six months they’ll play Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, while catching it all on film.
They’ll share photos, videos, songs and their impressions of Central Asia from forgotten Soviet towns to the hustle and bustle of eastern bazaars.
The band are:
Andreas (drums/backing vox/keys) – A Swede, who grew up in communes in Sri Lanka, he’s been in and out of Afghanistan doing good since 2001
Ru (vox/bass) – A Brit, who’s spent the last two years in Kabul shooting videos and making music
Travka (guitar/sounds) – An Aussie, who first came to Afghanistan with the American invasion in 2001. He’s a film-maker, photographer and graffiti artist
Archie (guitar/sounds/backing vox) – Our French roving member and producer, most often found jamming late into the night with any musicians he can find, from cellists to rubab players.