Created in 2019 by Naz Toorabally, WEIRDO serves as a platform for the representation of South Asians within the alternative community. With a message of breaking down the stereotypical view of the South Asian community, WEIRDO’s zine and blog serves as a voice of the underrepresented South Asian alternative scene. Generally being overlooked by both the mainstream, alternative, fashion, and beauty movements, WEIRDO seeks to change this viewpoint. This is done through art, photography, poetry, interviews, and essays. The content on the platform is created by solely South Asians, however, do not let this fool you – it is an open expression that is aimed at anyone who happens to identify within the alternative scene and the subcultures that inform them. We spoke to Naz, the founder, editor, and creator of WEIRDO on the influences, their music focused second zine, and what plans she holds for the future of WEIRDO.
For those who have not heard of WEIRDO, can you tell us about the platform?
WEIRDO is a zine and platform I created to document and celebrate the experiences, perspectives and contributions of South Asian people in the alternative scene. The zine is released annually, and we released our second issue – The Music Issue – in November 2021. Ultimately, WEIRDO is about bringing together South Asian people across alternative subcultures around the world.
What was it that made you start WEIRDO and how do you use this to challenge the stereotypes of South Asians and alternative culture?
I’ve never felt represented in the alternative scene and I’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider with other South Asian people, but never thought to create a zine about it until I discovered zines a few years ago. I saw gal-dem, Burnt Roti and FEM zine in a bookshop and was really excited by what they were doing and decided to make something that represented people like me.
WEIRDO has most recently released the second zine: The Music Issue, and as a grunge-folk musician yourself, how important do you feel representation is within the music scene?
Representation matters because everyone wants to feel included, even the weirdos. It matters at every level from who onstage and backstage to who is in the audience at a gig. Representation shouldn’t be a tick box exercise though because changing how things look doesn’t do much to change the structures that prevent people who look like me being celebrated in the music scene.
I think in any creative industry, seeing someone who looks like you succeed can help you feel like it’s something you can achieve too. In the case of music, it’s a tough industry for anyone to enter, but particularly challenging for women and people of colour. Many South Asian people, for example, have the shared experience of our parents not being supportive of us entering the music industry often due to the financial instability – being a musician is really expensive and the pay is terrible or non-existent when you’re starting out! A few of the people interviewed in The Music Issue discuss their experience navigating this. Being able to show them people from our community who are doing really well from their music or art is also really helpful in convincing our families we can do this.
Since the creation of WEIRDO, have you seen changes in perspective and acceptance from the mainstream towards South Asians and their involvement within the alternative scene?
I’m less concerned with the mainstream and more interested in changes in the alternative scene and South Asian community. However, one thing I will mention is that seeing ‘We Are Lady Parts’ on Channel 4, a TV series about Black and brown Muslim women in a punk band is exactly the kind of mainstream representation I want to see more of. In terms of what WEIRDO is doing, we have some event collaborations coming up in London this year which I’m really excited about – I’m hoping that through these collaborations we’ll start seeing some of those changes, at least in the scene in London.
With many of the contributors to WEIRDO being young creatives, do you feel that the creative scene is the catalyst in bringing together and nurturing a community of like-minded individuals?
Creative outputs bring people together irrespective of whether you are a creative or someone who enjoys experiencing different artforms and supporting creatives. Many subcultures are formed through music which influences fashion and art, so WEIRDO working with a lot of creatives was inevitable. However, I think people who aren’t creatives also play a huge role in forming these communities by supporting in other ways!
The next issue of the WEIRDO zine is slated for release this September; can you give us an insight into the theme of the upcoming issue?
Yes! If all goes to plan, Issue 3 will be out in September. I’m hoping this issue will be more collaborative and that I’ll be able to organise a couple of shoots and actually meet people in person this year depending on the situation with COVID. In terms of the theme, I’m keeping that under wraps at the moment! I’ll be announcing it at our first ever event in March celebrating 2 years since we published the first issue.
What does 2022 hold in future for WEIRDO, what is next?
This year is going to be a busy one for us! As mentioned, we’re working on Issue 3 and have some collaborations coming up, but we’re also in the process of establishing a collective to make this more of a community project. The first thing we have coming up is our 2-year anniversary event at the Museum of Youth Culture in London which will be an exhibition of the first two issues and a panel discussion with some of the people interviewed in The Music Issue. Beyond that, we’re looking into securing some funding so we can continue building on our work.
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Underground Soundwave presents an ongoing series of reports on emerging and established bands with close-up Q&As, new release reviews and gig reports with a special emphasis on supporting diversity in music, women in music, independent labels and venues and the local music scene.