Chepang: We Represent the Underclass Where Classes Divide the Nation
The last time we featured the self-proclaimed Immigrindcore alliance Chepang on our site was in 2020 when we reviewed their crushingly heavy and vicious yet remarkably eclectic masterpiece, Chatta. If you aren’t already familiar with Chepang, this New York City-based band keeps true to the uncompromising and political nature of grindcore, delivering the blast beat-driven […]
The post Chepang: We Represent the Underclass Where Classes Divide the Nation first appeared on DIY Conspiracy – International Zine in the Spirit of DIY Hardcore Punk!
The last time we featured the self-proclaimed Immigrindcore alliance Chepang on our site was in 2020 when we reviewed their crushingly heavy and vicious yet remarkably eclectic masterpiece, Chatta. If you aren’t already familiar with Chepang, this New York City-based band keeps true to the uncompromising and political nature of grindcore, delivering the blast beat-driven mayhem that one may expect, along with improv/free jazz, unhinged guitar solos, and even some weird electronics.
As a community of immigrants from Kathmandu, Chepang’s lyrics in Nepalese deliver an urgent voice of solidarity and resilience, while the addition of a second drummer takes the intensity of their dual vocal attack to even greater extent. Since the release of their highly-acclaimed album Chatta, the band has intensified their immigrant voices with the release of a split 7-inch record with the fellow grind/sludge monsters Yautja, and most recently, a split with the influential political hardcore band Racetraitor from Chicago.
Excited to learn more about this brand new split, released through Twelve Gauge Records, we have embarked on a conversation with Chepang’s guitarist Kshitiz Moktan. Let’s dive into the immigrindcore of Chepang!
Chepang refers to one of the indigenous ethnic groups of Nepal. Is the name of the band a political statement in itself? Do you often get asked about the Chepang people and the politics in the region?
Yes it is a statement. Yes we do get asked about the people and politics in the region which have helped us to connect with a lot of people around the world. We represent the underclass where classes divide the nation and are proud to represent this notion of ideology against such and also make people aware of things going around in our region where you have these classes divided in the society. You can look around you this is present everywhere where people of a certain color have no access to resources and have been politically oppressed for generations.
We had your old band’s Sangharsha split LP with Germany’s Blank reviewed back in 2015. Can you talk about your background in hardcore punk music and the bands you’ve played in before or besides Chepang? What was the impetus to form Chepang and how does it differ from your other projects?
Yeah, I used to sing for Nepalese punk band called Inside 2 Stoopid Triangles (an ode against Nepal’s flag which has two triangles) back in the ‘90s. It was a true socio-political punk band with influences that ranged from Minor Threat, Bad Brains to Black Flag. My love for hardcore punk originally started when I first heard Black Flag’s “Rise Above”. This is how I discovered a great community of friends and awesome music to find like minded people who do not think like sheeps. They have their strong opinion on everything around them that is happening and leaders in advocating against these topics such as oppression, racism, fascism etc. Chepang in a way carries that socio political awareness however what separates this band is the progressive nature of the music. The music has no boundary with Chepang which in a way is ironic of what we represent and a vision of a world without borders. We continue to evolve as human beings in this growing capitalistic society to learn, adapt and fight against it. This is what Chepang is all about, the constant evolution and progression.
Your latest album Chatta was really amazing! Wondering if you could share more insights about its lyrics, recording process, guest appearances and basically everything that makes it such a rare gem within the current grindcore scene. How important is the Nepalese language for you as a band?
Thank you. We are glad that people loved it and were kind of enough to accept the progressive nature of the record. The lyrics continue the tradition of socio-political topics such as opposing the growing racism and fascism. All the guest appearances were totally improvised in the studio which is the true nature of Chepang. Special shout out to Tashi Dorji and Mette Rasmussen for providing the special added improvised noise and saxophone. They are one of the best improvised musical duos and individuals playing music around.
Nepalese language is very important for us as it is who we are and is our identity. Using this language creates more emotional attachment and delivery of the songs. We are very thankful that people dig this.
Let’s talk about your recent split releases with Yautja and Racetraitor. Do you think that as immigrants you can find a welcoming community in subcultures like DIY punk and hardcore? Do you see hardcore, metal and grindcore scenes reclaiming their political edge since you started the band around the time of Trump’s inauguration in 2017?
Yes, for sure we have a tight knit community in this subculture where everyone is welcome. We have bands from various places that are active in the scene and are welcome such as Japan, Brazil, Mexico, etc. that have built this scene here. I don’t know about reclaiming as it’s a big word but we will do our part for what we stand for. The change must come starting with oneself and not really from others and things will follow. The road is very long but a small voice and change starting with an individual will make a difference in the long run.
“Don’t forget the streets
Don’t forget your struggle
Coz they will constantly remind you of your color”
You made a video for the two songs on your side of the split 7-inch with Racetraitor. In the lyrics you make a reference to Warzone’s “Don’t Forget The Struggle, Don’t Forget The Streets”. Wondering if you could share some immigrant perspectives on the classic NYHC bands like Warzone and Agnostic Front, with their sometimes nationalistic and anti-immigrant lyrical content on one hand, and the more political, pro-immigrant hardcore punk of bands like Los Crudos or Huasipungo, on the other?
That was not really a reference to Warzone but a direct quote of the things we have experienced as immigrants. Our community suffered a lot during the peak of Covid, where masses of people of color were killed due to lack of resources such as universal healthcare. The place where we live in Queens was the hardest hit place in NYC where everything derailed after. Many people died from this lack of access to simple universal healthcare. This is why I come to the point of this systemic oppression with lack of access to resources such as healthcare and education. Many of these people were great people who worked very hard to provide food to their family. Be it selling food or grocery in the streets. I personally lost a few of them who I would see everyday in the block I live in. This is why the reference to the Streets and the struggle. I have no perspective from other bands’ views you mentioned because those bands are bands that I am not close or familiar with.
The split with Racetraitor was released by a great guy like Jihad Rabah of Twelve Gauge Records, who is a Palestinian immigrant from Jordan. How important is it for you as a band to work with other immigrant kids on booking your tours, releasing Chepang’s records, creating the artwork, doing guest appearances in your songs, etc.?
I would never put a certain type of background as the only person we would work with. Be it releasing a record or doing a tour. That’s irrelevant and not what we stand for. We need to think beyond that and explore and be strong enough to change minds if need be. It is an honor and a blessing we have people like Jihad who are providing the scene and the community with outlets for bands like us. Cheers to him but in the end we love working with everyone as long as we share the same vision. Is that what punk music is all about, breaking barriers and stereotypes?
“I am Illegal—stealing your jobs
I am Illegal—selling them drugs
I am Illegal—igniting of your insecurities”
I remember listening to the Nepalese punk band Rai Ko Ris back in 2002, at the time of the Nepalese Civil War to overthrow the monarchy. Later on, I found more Nepalese bands thanks to the extensive knowledge of Lük Haas and his TAM89 Records label. Do you have some stories to share about the history of the Nepalese underground?
That would be a long topic if I went that back. Maybe we can do a separate article on that. My old band Inside 2 Stoopid Triangles like I said were from the same era where Rai Ko Ris were from. We did some great shows together and various memories and stories of that era. I can say the Nepalese underground scene is rich with great music and also message right now as well. I would like to think forward and talk about it more than go back. Check out bands like Chain Ov Dogs, Discord, Konflicts (Sikkim) who are doing the right thing to push the Nepalese scene forward with originality and authenticity.
Do you mind sharing your perspectives on the recent uprisings in places like Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Iran?
There are only two words I would like to say for the folks living there: RISE ABOVE!
Thank you for the interview, anything else you’d like to add? Any favorite records of 2022 or newer bands that grabbed your attention recently?
Please be on the lookout for our double LP for Summer 2024. Four sides with four different types of music and production. NO LYRICS and side D is machine made (AI). Check out the band from Sikkim, India, called Konflicts:
Couple of records I have been digging this year are Cloud Rat –Threshold; Extortion – Seething; Mike, Wiki & The Alchemist – One More; and Taylor Swift, Midnight.
Chepang / Racetraitor’s split 7-inch is available for pre-order through Deathwish. The record was audio engineered by Colin Marston at Menegroth the 1000 Caves, art & layout by Dib Gurung. The video for “Chala Ko Rung X Gairkanuni” was curated and directed by GOMEZ.