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HARAM - وين كنيت بي ١١​/​٩؟? “Where Were You on 9​/​11​?​” EP Music Album Reviews

The New York agit-punks’ latest EP is another menacing, distorted call to arms.

“Where were you on 9/11?” is a loaded question. For some, those moments were imbued with grief and personal horror; for others, the horrors came after the clouds of ash had settled, and a new, violent era of American political consciousness dawned. That famous, widespread sense of kindness and solidarity that was said to have briefly reigned in New York City following 9/11 did not extend to everyone; those who came of age post-9/11, in the shadow of the hawkish Patriot Act, remember something different.

Following the attack, hate crimes against Muslims, Sikhs, and people of Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian descent rose sharply, and that toxic Islamophobia has formed the bedrock of both U.S. foreign policy and its xenophobic, right-wing political rhetoric ever since. This is the reality that spawned New York agit-punks Haram, and that they seek to confront via their short, sharp tracks of hardcore aggression and lyrics sung in Arabic. Vocalist Nader Haram, who was born in Yonkers to Lebanese parents, tackled that question head-on with their 2017 debut بس ربحت, خسرت “When You Have Won, You Have Lost” and remain vigilant on the band’s latest EP, “وين كنيت بي ١١/٩؟? “Where Were You on 9/11?” a menacing, distorted call to arms.

On the title track (for which the band provided an English translation), menacing guitars shove over for Nader’s snarling, wounded recollections—“The pilots did their flying/Where did you think I was, on 9/11?” Like so many others of his generation, he was sitting in class when his teacher broke the news. The only Muslim kid in his 5th-grade class at Catholic school, Nader was pulled out of class and questioned by the principal, an experience that left an indelible mark on his understanding of racism and surveillance (which was only compounded when he briefly became a target for the FBI). “In Jesus’ school/Came my teacher/She told me I was there,” he howls through the trauma, biting off each syllable with bared teeth.

”قنبلة بي السماء (Bomb in the Sky)” offers a sickening snapshot of life under the forever war, its rage and frantic energy packed into under two minutes of gritty punk rock’n’roll. “جهاد, جهادي (Jihad, Jihadi)” is intoxicating, its blunt lyrics—“Kill, Kill, Kill/You destroyed us with your union”—and sturdy groove two-stepping towards the revolution. On the taut, anthemic “(الحل (المقاومة The Solution (Is Resistance),” Nader turns his focus towards the future, bellowing, “When you wake me up/It’s all or nothing/Everything for the resistance!”

That resistance is intrinsic to Haram’s every note and breath as a punk band; there is nothing radical about falling in line with the status quo, and as Nader told Discipline Press back in 2017, “Any minority being threatened in a community…if you’re a true punk and someone that actually believes in it, you have to stand up and defend that shit.” In just under eight minutes, Haram do more for the cause of righteously political punk than performative pretenders have in three decades, and with “Where Were You on 9/11?” they’ve sounded the alarm for all of us to keep waking the fuck up.

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