Malaysian metal and the Man: a first-hand account

Responding to an earlier BB post about Malaysia's crackdown on heavy metal, Boing Boing reader Tiara says:

It happened quite a while ago, in 2001. There was this big outcry over teenagers holding Satanic black metal concerts and stomping holy books and all that. Basically – imagine the whole Satanic Ritual Abuse hoo-ha with an added element of music.

I was in school during the time and there was an announcement made in morning assembly about it. According to the announcement, the crackdowns started after a imam (Muslim priest) walked into the woods and stumbled onto a black metal concert where holy books like the Quran and the Bible were set on fire and stomped on (and other such "Satanic" stuff).

The story (it's never really been verified) got picked up by Harian Metro ("HM"), a Malay tabloid, and they really made a big deal out of it. The government then got involved. There were crackdowns in schools, kids were stripsearched in some places, and there were posters and information everywhere about supposedly Satanic symbols – including pentagrams and the hand signs for "I Love You" and "Rock On". Merchandise from bands like ACDC and Limp Bizkit were banned; so were their music, for a while. People who wore black T-shirts were looked at suspiciously – one local radio station had a problem with this because their T-Shirts were black!

This then escalated into a witchhunt over many things youth-related; other forms of music, such as hiphop, dance, and rock in general, were targeted as being evil and morally degrading. Harian Metro kept making reports over "hiphop parties that are really orgies of sex, drugs, and alcohol" and basically how the youth of Malaysia were being corrupted by bad forces.

Things got a bit interesting when in one of those damn-them-hiphoppers reports, HM used pictures from a legitimate and legal music event hosted by a local music magazine (TONE or KLue, I can't remember which) and claimed it to be a sex orgy. The magazine took action and quizzed them over their motives; HM had no answer. This was the start of a major discussion and debate across the media about how much respect do Malaysian youths receive from their communities and from their government, about subcultures and misconceptions, and about youth issues in general.

There then was a short "Pink Metal" phase (girl bikers), but that died down quickly. Eventually everything died down, people forgot about it. There was never any actual proof about any of the claims; just "confessions" by anonymous 16-year-olds.

It was the Malaysian version of the Satanic Ritual Abuse saga, but it was also a strong indicator of how Malaysian youth was seen by the rest of the country. It did spark some energy in the youths about speaking up for their rights to express themselves and be themselves without being judged unnecessarily. There was also increased awareness about the different subcultures.

I thought everything was just super-hyped-up (for goodness sake, the people making the biggest noise were from a TABLOID – and they got busted eventually). It was a witchhunt and a wild goose chase all in one. But it was a very interesting time for Malaysia and its youth.

Previously: MP3 — Malaysian Metal and government crackdown