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Issue One, July/Aug 2013

BANGLADESH The Black Heart of Dhaka THAILAND Dead Monk Walking SUDAN The Meroe Pyramids



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Welcome to Issue One of Wicked World: a new, alternative travel magazine that dares to be different. Unrestricted by commercial restrictions, we remain free to challenge, question and tell the truth about the business of international travel. We’re not here to sell expensive guided tours, round-the-world gap year tickets, or travel insurance, but exist primarily to provide a platform for the kind of honest, alternative and irreverent travel writing that wouldn’t normally find a home in more mainstream publications.

CONTENTS Sudan’s Meroe Pyramids The Ancient and Rarely Visited Ruins of Begrawiya The Black Heart of Dhaka Rickshaw Riding with the Beast: Bangladesh’s Extreme Metal Underbelly The Bivouac of the Dead A Haunting Return to Vicksburg, Mississippi Big Problem With Mr Moustache Detained by the Police in Kyrgyzstan Dead Monk Walking Risen in Thailand

In the very first issue of Wicked World, you will Ethiopia Photo Gallery find articles on: the burgeoning black metal scene Gonder, Lalibella, Axum... in Bangladesh; the rarely visited Meroe Pyramids Redemption in Cambodia in Sudan; mine clearance in Cambodia; a haunting Soldiers and Saviors return to Vicksburg, Mississippi; the resurrection of a mummified monk in Thailand; a bizarre encounter Hungry Ghosts Festival with the police in Kyrgyzstan; System of a Down’s selfPraying to the Dead in financed film about the Armenian Genocide; and a Malaysia and Singapore festival for hungry ghosts in Malaysia and Singapore. System of a Down: Screamers The American/Armenian Nu-Mettalers Film about the Armenian Genocide

Front Page: Tigrai, Ethiopia

Above: Painting, Marrakesh Wicked World I Issue One I 3


Marco has travelled extensively and lived in Italy, the United States, China, Australia and Malaysia. He started vagabonding as a punk rock guitarist in Europe and North America, hitting the most famous and infamous stages across the two continents. Since 2009 he’s been based in Southeast Asia as a writer, hardcore punk musician and researcher. He has a weekly column at Rolf Pott’s Vagabonding, has written about overland Asian travel and extreme music in Asia for a variety of international publications, and blogs at Marco’s first pulp novel Nazi Goreng explores the underbelly of Malaysian international drug trade and displaced youth, and will be published later in 2013.

His third novel, The Man with the Golden Mind, will be out with Exhibit A in 2014. He has published several nonfiction books, including the highly acclaimed Sacred Skin (with his wife, photographer Aroon Thaewchatturat) and the more recent Burmese Light with photographer Hans Kemp. Tom is the co-author of several documentary screenplays, most notably The Most Secret Place on Earth, a feature on the CIA’s covert war in 1960s Laos. In his spare time, Tom travels and plays punk rock JASON SMART

Jason Smart is a teacher, traveller and writer based in the United Kingdom. So far, he’s visited over one hundred countries, including many African and Asian nations, as well as every single TOM VATER republic of the former Soviet Union, Tom Vater is which formed the basis of his a writer and book, The Red Quest. When he’s not publisher travelling, Jason plays bass in The working Puretones. predominantly in Visit his website www.theredquest. Asia. He is the co- com. owner of Crime Wave Press, a DAVID ENSMINGER Hong Kong based English language David Ensminger crime fiction imprint. is a writer, He has published two novels, The musician, editor, Devil’s Road to Kathmandu, currently college instructor, available in English and Spanish, and folklorist. and The Cambodian Book of the Dead, He has published released by Crime Wave Press in three books, Asia and world wide in July 2013 by including a coExhibit A. written bio of Lightnin’ Hopkins

called Mojo Hand, a study of the visual history and subcultures of punk rock, Visual Vitriol, and a collection of punk interviews titled Left of the Dial. He has also contributed to Popmatters, Houston Press, Trust (Germany), Artcore (Wales), Magyar Taraj (Hungary), and academic journals as well. In 2012, he edited an app offered by BibilioBoard, the Punk and Indie Rock Compendium, that contains music, photography, ephemera, and interviews, now available on iTunes. JAMES MICHAEL DORSEY James Michael Dorsey is an explorer, author and photographer. He has travelled extensively and regularly contributes articles to wildlife and travel magazines from all over the world. His first book Tears, Fear and Adventure is available both as a paperback and an eBook via his web site at TOM COOTE

Tom’s first book Tearing up the Silk Road was published worldwide by Garnet Publishing in August, 2012. Since then, he has completed another full length travel book called Voodoo, Slave’s and White Man’s Graves: West Africa and the End of Days. He has travelled independently in well over a hundred countries and regularly updates his site at

submissions & enquiries We’re not looking for the kind of articles that you would normally find in mainstream travel mags or generic travel blogs. We’re particularly interested in underground internationally inspired culture - whether its the Black Metal Scene in Bangladesh, or oppositional art in Iran - and would also be interested in first person accounts of travel to unusual destinations. If you would like to get involved in Wicked World, or would simply like to know more, send an email to or

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The MeroĂŠ Pyramids Words & Photos Tom Coote

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The Ancient & Rarely Visited Ruins of Begrawiya


he bus slowed to a halt and a long line of passengers gestured for me to leave. As we had drawn closer, I had pushed apart the heavy, dusty curtains to glare out across the Nubian Desert towards a distant mound of sand dunes topped by triangular peaks. I squeezed down through the shaded seats, past the lines of men with tatty tweed jackets and the half-heartedly veiled women, and stepped out into the searing sun. As the bus pulled away, towards civilisation, I was left standing at the road side, on my own. There were no other cars and no other people. On the horizon, I could just make out the tops of what I assumed be the Meroe pyramids. After pausing for a moment, I pulled myself together and walked off into the desert. Earlier in the day, I had set out on what I had thought would be an

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easy day trip. The manager of the International YHA in Khartoum - at which I was the only guest - had been kind enough to write down the names of where I had to go, in Arabic, on a green post-it note. Having walked over to the first local bus to stop at the main road, I had held up my post-it note, only to be hurriedly ushered on board. This bus hadn’t actually gone to where I had wanted to go but another passenger had taken pity on me and led me slightly further on my way before passing me on to yet somebody else. Whenever I reached a crossroads, or was unsure of which way to go, I would present my green post-it note to someone I liked the look of, and, in turn, receive a new barrage of hand signals. Through this method of travel I eventually made my way to the bus station of Bahri, from where I caught a minibus to the larger bus station of Shendi.

From there, I bought a ticket for a full-sized bus whose shadowy interior resembled a mobile tart’s boudoir: every surface available was draped with heavy, dusty, tasselled curtains and not a single inch of the ceiling was left empty of embellishment; the ancient television at the front of the bus was encased in a unique and highly decorative surround, and a few feet in front of this lavish display, a large box of tissues was suspended by a large red ribbon. After a couple of hours of rhythmically rumbling on, my eventual expulsion from the womb like shelter of this elaborately decorated sanctuary, into the relentless glare of the desert sun and the wide open vastness of the world outside, had come as something of a shock. I had only been shuffling through the sand for a few minutes when I noticed two warrior-like figures

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thundering towards me astride galloping camels. From the backs of their beasts they towered far above, raising urgent young fists up towards the pounding desert sun as they descended upon my weary figure. They were Ali and Mohammad (aged around 14 and 11, respectively) and they wanted to know if I would like a camel ride. They seemed so keen on offering the services that I didn’t want to disappoint them. After a couple of minutes of bouncing up and down on top of the larger of the two camels, I was starting to wish that I hadn’t bothered - I couldn’t help feeling that it would have been faster, easier and more comfortable, simply to have walked. As I slowly bumped ever on, the back of the Meroe pyramids came further into view along the top of the largest of the slowly approaching sand dunes. Meroe was the southern capital of the Napata/Meroetic kingdom (c. 800 BC - c. 350 AD). Meroe had grown rich and powerful through the smelting of iron and gold, and international trade that spread as far as India and China. About 400 years after the decline of the Egyptian Empire in the 12th century BC, and about 800 hundred years after the Egyptian’s built their last pyramid, they 10 I Wicked World I Issue One

decided to resurrect the Egyptian burial customs (the Meroetic era was roughly contemporary with the Ptolemies of Egypt - around the time of Antony and Cleopatra). I tried to get out my camera and capture an image of the emerging monuments but the lumbering beast that I had mounted had other ideas every time that I attempted to open my bag, it would lurch forward, forcing me to grab on to the front of the less than comfortable saddle, so that I wouldn’t be thrown head first into a mound of gravelly sand or a sparse sprouting of prickly bush. As

a barbed-wire fence, surrounding the dune, had now come into view, I decided to wait until my feet were back on solid ground. We would just have to keep following it around until we found the entrance gate. They were bound to let me down sooner or later. Over 40 Nubian/Kush Kings and Queens were buried in the Begrawiya pyramids along with all that they would need in the afterlife: as well as weapons, treasure and kitchen utensils, the ruler’s comrades and servants would also get thrown in for good measure

(for this reason, conspiracies within the court were rare). It was the gold, silver and jewellery, however, which would really bring in the crowds, many centuries later. By the time that the Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Ferlini (1800 - 1870) had dynamited of the tops of the biggest of the Meroe pyramids, most of the treasure had long been looted - for all the destruction that he wrought upon the then not so ruined ruins, he found very little remaining of any monetary value (a couple of the smaller pyramids have since been restored but they look a little too new and shiny in comparison to their more battered neighbours). As we circled around the sagging fence, the squat brick built ticket kiosk came into view. To the side of it was a small market of tourist tat sellers. It didn’t look like they’d had any visitors for a while but they’d been expecting me. I eventually got them to leave me alone by saying that I’d have a look on the way out

but warned them that I wasn’t likely to buy much. They must go through days on end without selling a single carved pyramid or pharaoh themed book end, just hoping that an overland truck will turn up to bless them with hordes of willing consumers. Ali and Mohammad were very encouraging and rather overly impressed at the way in which I managed to get off the camel without falling flat on my face. I sensed that they would later be angling for a tip. For the moment I was just pleased to be able to get about on my own two feet. I rubbed my arse, in a vain attempt to bring it back to life, and hobbled over to buy a ticket. There were loads of them in there, all just sitting around with nothing better to do. Surely they only needed one of them to sell tickets - I had yet to see another tourist anywhere in Sudan and there appeared to be no towns or villages around for miles. Having

purchased my (surprisingly) modestly priced entrance ticket, I set off through the pristine waves of sand towards the first of the ancient pyramids. My bum was just moving on from numb when I heard my name echoing out from between the dunes. It was Ali and Mohammad. They had brought my camel around and were now insisting that I get back on it. I tried to tell them that I was fine with walking but they weren’t having any of it - I had agreed to pay for the camel ride so I was now going to ride the camel whether I wanted to or not. I trudged back down the dune and once again clambered over the camel’s hump before being lurched upwards. Luckily it wasn’t long before they deemed to let me down again, not much further around from where the dunes started to rise more steeply. They apologised and said that it would be better for me to carry on, on foot. I thought that camels were supposed to be good at that kind of thing but decided that Wicked World I Issue One I 11

it would be wiser not to push the matter. Away from the souvenir sellers and camelteers, the pyramids seemed strangely quiet and untainted. The only marks or footprints in the rippling dunes of soft, yellow sand were from my own, battered white trainers. Everything was still. Nobody could have entered the compound for days or even,

possibly, weeks. I wandered in through the archway of one crumbling monument but there was nothing inside to see - just more ancient stone, left standing in the sand. They were nothing but shells. Most of the carvings and illustrations had been removed (often by Europeans). Meroetic writing had been found scrawled throughout Begrawiya but nobody could read it - without an 12 I Wicked World I Issue One

inscription to act as a key, it could never be deciphered and would remain as mysterious scribbles. While much remains unknown, we do know that the Royal Cemetery was transferred from Napata to Meroe, around the beginning of the 3rd century BC, and that this shift marked a dramatic move away from Egypt’s influence and a move towards a more Greek inspired

As Nubian culture moved further away from the Egyptian influence, they slowly began to embrace a more typically African identity: the jewellery and other artefacts left behind more closely resembled those found from further south; the Lion God, Apademek, was adopted as a regional deity; African tribal markings such as facial scarring were increasingly adopted; and the Nubians were known to take

culture of independent thought. Up until this time, the high priests of Kush had been able to issue ‘divine orders’ to the Kings to bring an end to their reign through suicide. This tradition rather abruptly came to an end when King Ergamenes basically told the priests to sod off. He then had them all slaughtered. From then on it was never the same again, and the Kings just seemed to get away with doing whatever they wanted.

a pride in their ebony skin. This new era lasted until the 1st or 2nd century AD, when Meroe started to go downhill, following wars with Roman Egypt, a decline in their traditional industries, and environmental deterioration caused through deforestation (possibly as a consequence of their previously well established smelting industry). By the time that King Ezana of Axum - in what is now Ethiopia -

had invaded in 350 AD, the Meroe Kingdom had largely disintegrated. Having seen and photographed all that was left to see, I slid back down the dunes towards Mohammad and Ali. They wanted me to give them more money than I had already agreed. Ali hadn’t really done anything apart from get in the way but still seemed keen to negotiate what seemed like rather a high rate for just tagging along with his rather less impressive ship of the desert. ‘My camel is only small’ pleaded Ali ‘but he is very hungry’. There was also no way that I could make my way back out

through the entrance gate, without being trapped by the trinket traders. I braced myself for the assault and in the end managed to get away with the purchase of two (reasonably) cheap Ebony bracelets. I patiently explained to the other sellers that I really couldn’t - or, at least, really didn’t want to - buy something from everybody, and, rather surprisingly, they eventually seemed to come to terms with this unfortunate reality. Mohammad and Ali turned out to be rather more strong willed. Having lowered me down from the camel, back at the side of the road, they did their best to extract a higher fee. When I

eventually relented and produced a few extra small notes for Ali’s ‘help’, he snatched them out of my hand and swiftly clambered back on to his ‘small but hungry’ camel. As quickly as they had galloped towards me, with their hands outstretched towards the blinding desert sun, they now thundered off towards the opposite horizon, hands raised in farewell, against the rapidly darkening sky. I was one more abandoned at the side of the road, with my own hand raised, waiting for someone to stop and take me home. •

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ccording to the introduction to Screamers given by the journalist and academic Samantha Powers, a 'Screamer' is an individual capable of fully processing the reality of genocide, and therefore compelled to do whatever they can to prevent it). Interspersed with concert footage from around the world are interviews with human rights activists, band members, academics and a selection of naïve but enthusiastic fans. They all seem to agree that killing lots of people is bad. All of the members of System of a Down have Armenian roots, and all seem to have relatives who were in some way connected to the Ottoman Empires systematic extermination of between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians during and after the First World War. The word genocide was coined to describe these events but even today the Turkish government denies that the word genocide is an accurate description of what really happened. They are not alone. So far - despite the overwhelming historical evidence - only 20 countries have officially recognised the Armenian Genocide. Much to the shame and embarrassment of many Jews, even the state of Israel refuses to officially acknowledge the twentieth century's first great genocide. It's not that these governments don't think it happened - it's just that they don't want to upset Turkey when they have proved to be such a convenient ally, both during the Cold War and, more recently, as a buffer zone between Europe and other less amenable parts of the Middle East. System of a Down seem intent on persuading all individuals and governments to acknowledge the full magnitude and systematic nature of such slaughter. Time and time again we are told that governments must acknowledge the Armenian genocide so that nothing like this can ever happen again. It is never really explained how this might work. As we are reminded at the beginning of the film, Hitler was well aware of the Armenian Genocide, as was Winston Churchill and, I would assume, all other world leaders of the time. This didn't stop millions of Jews from being killed in the Holocaust. Even if we accept that the Armenian Genocide is far less well known than the Nazi genocide of the Jews, none of the hundreds of books or film about the Holocaust helped to prevent subsequent genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. Despite having the courage and conviction to invest their money and reputation into such a well meaning documentary, System of a Down fail to take such anti-genocide rhetoric to its logical conclusion. Others involved in the film, such as Samantha Power - an influential academic and an advisor to Barack Obama - have been far more direct about what it really takes to prevent genocide: she is considered by many to have been the key figure within the Obama administration in persuading the president to intervene militarily in Libya (she is also known for advocating that America send armed military forces, 'a mammoth protection force' 14 I Wicked World I Issue One

Travel in Sudan

Sudan is far from a mainstream tourist destination but it is possible to travel around independently relatively easily. Other than the visa costs, it is good value for money and can be visited overland, using only public transport, from either Egypt or Ethiopia. As well as being home to many sites of architectural and historical significance, it also has has a reputation for being one of the friendliest countries in the world.

Getting There

Many visitors to Sudan arrive as part of a larger African overland expedition (there are few genuinely independent travellers but several overland trucks pass through Sudan, on the way from Egypt to Ethiopia, as part as part of a larger Cairo to Cape Town trip). I flew into Khartoum with Ethiopia Airlines, having realised that it wouldn’t cost me any more to fly there via Addis Ababa, than it would to just go straight to Ethiopia.


I stayed at the International YHA in Khartoum as their only guest. The room was cheap and the staff were friendly and helpful but the facilities were basic (cold water showere would be fine for most of the year but they required some bracing during chilly early winter mornings).


It was fairly straight forward to get a visa from the Sudan Embassy in London - www.sudan-embassy. - for £55.00, but I did have to take a day off work and go there in person. After arriving in Sudan I also had to hire a driver to take me to the registration office in Khartoum and waste most of a morning and another £30.00 or so on being ‘officially’ registered. After that I then had to waste another couple of hours tracking down the official tourism office to apply for a (free) permit to take photographs (the lady there strongly recommended that I made a number of photocopies of this permit to hand out, when required, but nobody ever asked to see it).

“Tearing up the Silk Road is a book that deftly avoids romanticising the Silk Road and instead gives a realistic, sometimes harsh, appraisal of the countries passed through. Travellers too, will appreciate the intense focus on the nuts and bolts of travelling through the region ... It’s Coote’s account of the ideological battle between the East and the West in the region that adds depth to the book. He notes that the real clash is between the few who have much and the masses demanding more.” Wanderlust Magazine “ The author writes with a wonderful depth and precision so as to engross you in his journey, providing adventure with a unique and revealing perspective for life along the silk road.” Bare Essentials Magazine “If you’ve ever had the urge to chuck in your day job, step outside your comfort zone and strap yourself in for a rugged cultural journey, this is for you.” Get Lost Magazine “ An entertaining read that will inspire greater interest in the region.”

Open Central Asia Magazine

Out now through Garnet Publishing



Dhaka’s CNGs have have bars allbars haka’s CNGs t is said that Dhaka is the ugliest capital in the world - maybe. around, exactly like small crackling all around, exactly like It is also said that, secretly from the religious fundamentalists, prisons on three wheels. The reason is small crackling prisons simple: these descendants of the Italian within the city thrives the most extreme and dark metal - true. on three reason Ape Car canwheels. get stuck The for hours on end is the simple: thesetraffic. descendants in fatal Bengali “With these either of thethat best even known,cars nor one of the credibly civil andsplit clean one, as onlythe a Muslim to theone point struggle as a sole and between of the Ape to Car bars, no Italian one can come robcan you,”get says Asif most highly the regarded countries: it’s generally nation can Its Ganges countryside is suspended juggle incredible multitude waters ofbe.the and the Adnan against leftin side, words to stuck pushing for hours onmy end thehisfatal remembered for poverty, floods, a tiny popuin time: green, flat, crossed by rivers, streams, of men on wheels. “Many of them Brahmaputra, its delta is the largest flooded the exhaust fumesthese of twobars, buses Bengalibytraffic. “With lation of tigers, and the invention of microcre- rice paddies and water, dotted with shacks have in theofworld and formetal. thousands and three cars that are closing us in on each dit. Flattoasrent a solethe and rickshaw, split betweenthey the waters made wood and sheet And if the no one can come to rob you,” says side. Dhaka is like that: an unnatural orgy of could not afford to buy it ... they of years has continued to vomitlesser, of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, its delta development in the villages is certainly Asifand Adnan against my be glass steel, apushing maze of roads that could are ignorant who Himalayan snows into the Bay souls of is thepoor largestand in the world andpeople for thousands in the capital the destinies of 15 million left side, words the orderly if wehis froze at leastflooded half of its by chaotic of years has continued to vomit Himalayan in search of a better life powerfully spend their meager pay in booze as Bengal. The waters of theseintersect. Asian exhaust To fumes of two buses and humanity. complicate matters, Bangladesh snows into the Bay of Bengal. The waters of It is consequential that the most educated and soon as they earn it,” continues Asif giants have also regularly brought -three along cars with India is the only country the that -are closing us ininon these Asian giants have also regularly brought progressive had embraced the way of extreme lighting a cigarette. Its smoke adds terror, earthquake and tragedy to world can still find pedal each where side. you Dhaka is like that:rickshaws: an terror, earthquake and tragedy to Bangladesh’s metal. to thethe cloud of thick that is Bangladesh’s plains: theheavy last major these bicycles-cum-metallic-carriage-for-two last major floodsmog cum devastating But how do people live metunnatural orgy of glass and steel, a plains: cram up the roads to the point that even cars already at work to devour us. flood cum devastating hurricane hurricane swept everything away in 2007. al in an Islamic nation like Bangladesh? To maze of that could multitude be orderly struggle to roads juggle the incredible of In the world, Bangladesh swept everything away in 2007. Nevertheless, Bangladesh remainsisannot incredanyone who has followed the story of Iraqi if weonfroze leastofhalf its to chaotic men“Many themofhave rent ible human experiment: with a population band Acrassicauda and their “Heavy Metal exactly either one of the best Nevertheless, Bangladesh remains humanity. To complicate matters, the rickshaw, they could not afford to buy it ... equal to that of the United States squeezed in Baghdad” (directed by Suroosh Alvi in

The Black Heart of Dhaka •Rickshaw riding with the Beast•

they are poor and ignorant people who spend Bangladesh along India - is their meager pay- in boozewith as soon as they the only country the world where earn it,” continues Asifin lighting a cigarette. Its smoke adds to the cloud of thick smog that you can still find pedal rickshaws:is already at work to devour us. these bicycles-cum-metallic In the world, Bangladesh is not exactly

carriage-for-two cram up the roads

known, most into an areanor thatone doesof notthe exceed thathighly of Switzerland and Austria, itit’s is difficult to find a regarded countries: generally space that is not occupied by legs, arms, eyes remembered for poverty, floods, wheels. To the detriment of negative stereoaortiny population of tigers, and types, we must note, however, that Bangladesh the invention microcredit. Flat remains a crowdedofcountry, but also an in-

an incredible human experiment: 2007), please forget war zones and rehearsal rooms ahidden inside of bomb with population equalshelters. to thatIslam is certainly Bangladesh’s dominant religion, but of the United States squeezed fortunately the country does not suffer from into an area that does not exceed the aftermath of war. More simply, sprawling that and Austria, Dhakaofis Switzerland the country’s only stronghold of “cul-

Text by Marco Ferrarese | Travel photographs by Chan Kit Yeng

Bengali metal spend their days painting tempera on canvas, capturing models’ poses and smoking cigarettes. “On the contrary, I’m a fucking semi-lawyer,” points out Asif adjusting glasses on his little nose. A lawyer who calls himself Loki Nihilluminatus Jahiliyyah - translated as “the state of religious – literally ignorance before the Qur’anic revelation in the ut how do people livewith heavy Arab world” -: a black metal attack sharp “Norwegian God of death illuminated by inan anabsolutely Islamicand nation Islamic metal edges and solely destruction” - and tortures like taste. Bangladesh? To anyone South Asian “I started the project by myself in 2010, and eardrums with the cacophonous, who has followed the story of only now we are a real band, ” he continues. deranged beast called Jahiliyyah Iraqi band Acrassicauda and “We’ve just been on tour in Khulna: the people translated as “the state of religious their “Heavy Metal in Baghdad” there literally worshipped us, but you have no ignorance before the Qur’anic (directed by we Suroosh Alvi on in stage. I idea of the heat had to endure revelation in the Arab world” -: 2007), war zones and took a bitplease of acid forget before the show, and trust a black metal attack with sharp rehearsal inside of me: it’s been rooms tough to hidden keep my legs straight until theshelters. end of the Islam show. “ is certainly Islamic edges and an absolutely and bomb Knowing that Asif is involved in music, and solely South Asian taste. Bangladesh’s dominant religion, especially the Devil’s one, brought me to the “I started the project by myself in but fortunately the country does inevitable question. It was impossible not to 2010, and only now we are a real not ask. suffer from the aftermath of band,” he continues. “We’ve just war. More simply, sprawling “Of course, I am a Muslim and I followDhaka the is theof country’s stronghold rules my religion. only But that does not stop me been on tour in Khulna: the people from living withliberation”: a passion for metal, and keep there literally worshipped us, but of “cultural it is only an open mind. Don’t you think that our music you have no idea of the heat we had here that it’s possible to cultivate is universal by now? “ to endure on stage. Trust me: it’s Western ideas and create a small According to Asif ’s words, Bengali black but fierce revolution. metallers do underground not reject the Koran. They rather been tough to keep my legs straight until the end of the show. “ In those rural areastheir use contrast, it as a basis in upon which to develop where women destined live passion for extremeare metal, giving it atounique dimension oftosound lyrics powerfully confined theirand homes as soon rooted in Islam. fact that I am a Muslim as they marry“The still adolescent, and does not affect the quality of my music. Think men lazily take care of the crops in of the Indians, for example: do you believe the fields, rock music has no chance that their metal is less interesting because to Especially considering theyexist. are Hindus? And what about you Eurothat according to some hadith peans: Christianity does not make your(the music better or worse. Metal is a global language, sayings of the Prophet), in Islam and we Bengalis proud to add our style to music itself isareharam - forbidden. the genre’s staple. “They try to reach a global Imagine what could be of metal.


tural it isfind onlyahere that it’s possible it is liberation”: difficult to space that to cultivate Western ideas and create a is not occupied by legs, arms, small but fierce underground revolution. In contrast, eyes or wheels. To the detriment in those rural areas where women are destined of negative wesoon must to live confinedstereotypes, to their homes as as they note, however, that Bangladesh marry still adolescent, and men lazily take remains a crowded country, buthas care of the crops in the fields, rock music no chance to exist. Especially also an incredibly civil considering and cleanthat according to some hadith (the sayings can of the one, as only a Muslim nation Prophet), in Islam music itself is haram - forbe. Its countryside is suspended bidden. Imagine what could be of metal. in flat,us crossed by time: Thegreen, CNG leaves at our destination: rivers, streams, paddies and the faculty of Arts atrice ULAB (University of water,Arts dotted with shacks Liberal Bangladesh). It is heremade that many of dark souls Bengali metalAnd spendiftheir ofthe wood and of sheet metal. days painting tempera in on the canvas, capturing the development villages models’ poses and smoking cigarettes. “On the is certainly lesser, in the capital contrary, I’m a fucking semi-lawyer,” points the destinies 15 million souls out Asif adjustingofglasses on his little nose.inA search of calls a better life powerfully lawyer who himself Loki Nihilluminatus intersect. It is consequential that the – literally “Norwegian God of death illuminated destruction” - and tortures eardrums mostbyeducated and progressive had with the cacophonous, deranged beast called embraced the way of extreme metal.


Knowing that Asif is involved in music, and especially the Devil’s one, brought me to the inevitable question. It was impossible not to ask. Of course, I am a Muslim and I follow the rules of my religion. But that does not stop me from living with a passion for metal, and keep an open mind. Don’t you think that our music is universal by now? “ According to Asif’s words, Bengali black metallers do not reject the Koran. They rather use it as a basis upon which to develop their passion for extreme metal, giving it a unique dimension of sound and

musical context using their Muslim identity to bring metal to new contextual horizons: one CNGDementia leaves us ourconcept examplehe is Severe andattheir destination: theafaculty of album “Epitaph of Plassey”, curious concept album that retraces the historic battle of Arts at ULAB (Universityliberation fought between the East India Company of Liberal Arts Bangladesh). It is and Bengal in 1757.


here that many of the dark souls of

Severe Dementia

lyrics powerfully rooted in Islam. “The fact that I am a Muslim does not affect the quality of my music. Think of the Indians, for example: do you believe that their metal is less interesting because they are Hindus? And what about you Europeans: Christianity does not

attitudes towards Islam. “I grew up listening to my brother’s records, and my mother pushed me even further by buying me a guitar. She asked me to commit, and to do well in what I believe in, according to the will of Allah - “inshallah” -. I was lucky to receive this support from my family. It is not so easy for everyone in Bangladesh. “

with Kolkata - about eight hours away by car - and Darjeeling, where the metal scene has some better opportunities. Perhaps because of rampant overpopulation, concerts in Bangladesh are always full of kids possessed by heavy metal demons. “The real problem is that it’s difficult to get out of the country’s borders,” says Emran Shifa Ul of Sent Men Revolt, a more orthodox his small but fierce group of extreme musicians record and band inspired by the sounds of Pantera and Sepultura. “You have produce their own records independently, playing sporadically no idea how little our passport is worth. Of course, we can always out of the Dhaka Division, and dreaming of connecting even more go and play India, but their scene with the rest of the world. The is much more established, with so many good bands and great concerts are rare opportunities to play together in a context of global competition... it is not so easy to get metal. It seems that in Bangladesh to play out of Darjeeling and West Bengal. “ there are some spaces where metal bands can freely perform: in Dhaka, “It’s also too expensive,” insists Asif. The same applies to foreign make your music better or worse. music is foreign culture, and as bands, which generally only make Metal is a global language, and we such is suitable for university Bengalis are proud to add our style circuits. Not surprisingly, metal rare appearances in New Delhi or to the genre’s staple. “They try to bands play at the Russian Culture Bangalore in India, thousands of reach a global musical context using Center in Dhanmondi, close to miles away from Dhaka. “In India, metalheads are more fortunate: their Muslim identity to bring metal ULAB, or at the Auditorium of the to new contextual horizons: one National Library. Bands themselves they saw Metallica, Lamb of God, Incantation ... nobody comes up need to invest to rent the show example is Severe Dementia and here. Even in Nepal the scene is rooms (about 350 U.S. dollars per their concept album “Epitaph of gig), the backline and the lighting better than ours: Napalm Death Plassey”, a curious concept album played recently in Kathmandu. system: quite an amount of money that retraces the historic battle of

Abominable Carnivore


liberation fought between the East India Company and Bengal in 1757. Hasan Shahriar of Abominable Carnivore, another death/black metal band, confirms the positive

for all those metalheads- excluding the average urban bourgeoisie- who struggle to pay the two dollars entrance tickets. Otherwise, there’s neighboring Indian West Bengal

Here in Bangladesh we lack the means to bring the foreign bands in... We are decentralized; we have to buy expensive plane tickets to attend festivals in other parts of

the Subcontinent, “says Asif with a sour, resentful voice. s it is customary in most of South and Southeast Asia, rock bands have to cope with great expenses to be able to support their musical habits, without ever being repaid. For example, Jahiliyyah have produced an excellent debut album, “Aiyyame Jahiliyyah”, which has also been released in the more alternately organized Malaysia. The band is trying to negotiate a visa and fly to Kuala Lumpur to promote the release with a series of dates. Asif is frustrated: “If we had a better passport, we would have already gone. It almost seems like being Bengali was a sin. “



band’s nationality is often the main problem opposing the expansion of a pan-Asian music scene that could compete or be an alternative to the Western, without staying necessarily dominated by the more technologically advanced Japanese ChromaticMassacre_live.jpg

ensembles. Also, things have become more difficult for those who want to travel to Bangladesh: visas have tripled their costs. For citizens of the United States, Australia and England, a single entry visa to the country will cost $ 150 for a scarce couple of weeks. “We’re cut off from the metal world map ... the government thinks perhaps is protecting the integrity of the country, but instead is sheltering it. There is no chance left to emerge in any field, both cultural and economic, “said Khan Farabi Baezid of Chromatic Massacre, an

ensemble that follows the path of Brutal Tech- Death metal.

rehearsal session, Trainwreck, who is still at the initial stage of covering Lamb Of God, descends one floor to relax drinking a cup of chai in a small, anonymous bar. They lurk n order to at the margins of one of the many keep this dark shopping malls, the real theaters of heart beating, contemporary Asian contradictions Dhaka’s metalheads between the authenticity of took refuge at borderline underground rock and ULAB’s faculty the new, dominant consumerist of arts or in some identity that seems to headbang practice studios powerfully towards the West. where paying “We are working hard on a few customers can cage songs, but we do not feel confident themselves into enough to do a lot without a foreign tiny air-conditioned record label,” they conclude. I rooms equipped wonder if in a not so distant future with backline, the decadent musical reality of the and release their much idealized West will open its frustration against ears. I wonder if it will ever realize the system in a that in Bangladesh the flame of cathartic, guttural unadulterated metal is burning Bengali metal way. high. • After an intense


Chromatic Massacre

“The Bivouac of the Dead”: Vicksburg, Mississippi

Words and Pictures by

David Ensminger


ever mind the tourist brochures with slanted language. Never mind the dusty opulence of mansions next to shotgun shacks with faded flags on desiccated tree limbs, flapping with the imprecision of wounded butterflies. We rounded the last green hill, pointing the car towards the cemetery nudging the Mississippi.

It was broad-shouldered, fattened, and fast, making barges look out of control. In the summer steam, the river offered murky miles of destruction. Blemished white grave markers invoked terraced fields of teeth in the amber sun. Hemmed in by kudzu –the bitter visitor from China devouring nearby trees -- the land exuded a poetry that only the dead, including bivouacked boys from flat-

pressed Illinois prairies and fecund Wisconsin farms, could offer. A half-eaten, formerly mud-caked Navy gunship sat across the road, held hostage by gawking children and dads unwilling to ungrip cell phones. My great-great-grand uncle, shopkeeper Corwin, rose in the ranks of the Ohio 72nd Infantry here. Smelling his ghost, my wife and I fled mosquitoes aiming straight for our hands and faces. His enemies were buried deep in the heights of nearby Natchez, next to immigrants from Syria and Ireland. hey occupy a landscape dotted with delicate iron fences paid for by steamship captains and cotton field magnates, the capitalism that cocooned millionaires in the once unbridled South. People still grieve there in graveyards covered in thick wiry Spanish moss. Hidden from the lone sun-baked office, ladies in minivans offer broken shells, Mardis Gras beads,


Wicked World I Issue One I 20

small Matchbox cars and fire trucks placed on baby graves. The nearby miniature oil derrick never stops undulating, never stops rusting. I snap photos of chicory flavored coffee factories and Mark Twain’s waterside haunt, where ferns grow out of dank walls. Hail knocks out the electrical grid in 103-degree heat. Lightning bursts in purple zigzags across the lip of nearby Louisiana. Satellite radio, affixed to nostalgia for the days of Casio keyboards and parachute pants, emits a barrage of new wave songs. inner? For those who refuse boiling crawdaddy pots, clumpy cheesedrenched pasta awaits. Never mind the Indian mound nestled away in the itchy grass and back road bumps where tattooed teenage parents mend a broken tire; never mind the empty military school where men cheered dead British soldiers in New Orleans; never mind 10,100 Union men hacked to pieces by cannons while rebels hid in caves eating their own shoes; never mind the freed blacks driven to river camps, free to die from racist raids and dysentery; never mind the disappeared records stores on the blues highway; never mind the food pantries with homemade signs exclaiming “God Said, ‘Though Shalt Not Steal,’”; never mind the unfinished Civil Rights mural next to the stoic Southern soldier on a monolith. ever mind the feral strands of cotton poking up from quiet Natchez Trace outside Port Gibson, with its neon cinema remnants, burger standcum-car wash, and collapsed buildings coughing on the edge of town. Never mind my family swallowed by this place -- the bivouac, the dead. •


Trace Theater, Port Gibson, small town near Vicksburg


21 I Wicked World I Issue One

Note: Bivouac of the Dead is a poem written by Theodore O’Hara about soldiers in the Mexican American War, appropriated for this piece.

m e l b o r P ig

B with Mr Moustache D E TA I N E D B Y T H E P O L I C E I N K Y R G Y Z S TA N Words & Photos Jason Smart


“Passport,” the older of the two stated bluntly. He had a wispy black moustache which I reckoned he could quiver at will for sinister effect. This was just my luck. The only day I’d left my passport at the hotel was the day someone actually wanted to see it. I told them this and they conferred for a moment. Mr Moustache shook his head. “We need to see. Otherwise big problem.” He’d emphasised the word big, stretching the vowel out. Fortunately, I had a photocopy of it in my wallet and so fished it out while a group of young boys hovered nearby. They were watching me suffer with barely disguised glee. I handed the piece of paper over, hoping it would suffice. “Eeengliz?” said Moustache Man after staring at the photocopy. I nodded and smiled. I didn’t want to piss them off in away way. Both men studied it further and then conferred again. The patrons of Osh Bazaar were all giving us a wide berth, except for the boys who still lurked nearby. “Visa?” Mr Moustache said eventually. I had expected this request but without my passport, there was no way I could show them it. But I reasoned they already knew this. “Without visa, big problem.” said Mr Moustache, faintly quivering his facial hair. wo blue-uniformed policemen with massive black and red caps blocked my path. One looked Both men stared at me for a long while, and I began to be about thirty, the other was younger, barely to feel a little unnerved. Finally Mr Moustache spoke. “Come,” he stated bluntly. He pointed through the out of his teens. Both were unsmiling and looked like market, obviously towards the place they wanted me they meant business.

sh Bazaar was a hive of activity. Endless arrays of fruit and vegetables, clothes and mops, electrical components and everything else the people of Bishkek could possibly want were on offer. It also had a contingent of policemen, two of whom were watching me, though I didn’t know it at the time. Suddenly I spotted what I was looking for - a stand peddling kumis, fermented mare’s milk. Even though I’d tried the hideous stuff in Almaty, I was eager to give it a second chance. Perhaps the Kazakh kumis I’d drank had been from a bad batch. Peering into the large urn, I mimed to the lady in charge that I’d like a cup of Kyrgyzstan’s national drink. After the usual confusion, she produced a bowl and ladled the white liquid in for me. I handed over thirty som (40p) and took my brew to the side where I could sample it unhindered. After swirling it around for a few seconds, I deemed it lump free and raised the bowl to my lips. And then I took a sip.. Kazakh and Kyrgyz kumis was one and the same. In the resulting convulsions, I spilt some down my shirt, and so put the bowl down and fled, searching out a stall that sold water so I could rid myself of the vile taste. And then they pounced.


“The taste hit me immediately, a horrible vomit flavour mixed with curdled cheese.” 22 I Wicked World I Issue One

to go. I pretended I didn’t understand and pointed in the opposite direction and grinned an inane grin hoping the men would think I was a simpleton and let me go. They didn’t. Mr Moustache touched my shoulder in an attempt to get me moving but I stood my ground. “No,” I said, still grinning. “I’m going that way. Bye.” Both men blocked my path. The older man shook his head and tutted. “No. You come so we deal with things.” What choice did I have? I could hardly flee though the market with some rancid mare’s milk sloshing about in my innards. And anyway, where would I run? They would capture me in seconds, possibly frothing at the mouth. Besides, they were the police! People like me didn’t run away from the law. Finally, I acquiesced and allowed the officers

to lead me away. Some people stopped to watch me leave, but most averted their eyes and carried on with their business. The only people enjoying my torment seemed to be the group of boys.

began speaking to me in broken English. “Kyrgyzstan good? Yah?” I nodded enthusiastically and the man smiled for the first time. He seemed the friendlier of the two. He also decided to mime me drinking the kumis and laughed uproariously at his own impersonation. I laughed too. This was followed by a chillingly accurate impression of a horse neighing. He then mimed someone milking it, presumably educating me about where the kumis had come from. We continued our walk through Osh Bazaar and Mr Friendly asked me something but I couldn’t understand him. He resorted to mime once more and swung his arms about in a swimming-like motion. I nodded earnestly and smiled. Yes I like swimming! I like it very much, especially in a vat of mare’s milk. Now please let me go! We rounded a bend and came to a dark little part of Osh Bazaar. Fewer people were here

and it crossed my mind that I might be about to receive a beating. I considered making a dash for it, but for all I knew, there could be security cameras everywhere making escape impossible. Shaking my head resignedly, I followed the policemen into a cramped and s we made our way through the stuffy windowless room filled with three market, we passed the stall where I’d desks. bought the mare’s milk. My bowl had A few other policemen doing nothing in gone, I noticed, and Mr Moustache stopped to particular were inside and all looked up mime someone drinking and then grimacing. when I entered. I quickly became the centre of Then he pointed at me and laughed. I attention. A quick conversation erupted but I wondered where they had been watching me didn’t understand any of it. A fly buzzed by from. The boys were shouting and laughing, the low ceiling and Mr Moustache directed causing some people to stare. Mr Moustache me to a chair on one side of a spare desk. I sat turned around and yelled. They swiftly down, awaiting my fate in my first Kyrgyz scarpered. police station. Policeman number two, the youngster,


k y r g y z s t a n

Wicked World I Issue One I 23


r Moustache sat opposite me while Mr Friendly stood by his side. Bad cop, good cop. They spoke to me in thick Russian and I shrugged. I can’t understand you. They spoke some more in Russian but I stopped them by saying. “Nyet Russki!” Suddenly one of the policemen sat a table behind me piped up. “They want to know why you in Kyrgyzstan?” Do they indeed. I turned to the new man and said, “Please tell them I’m a tourist from England.” The policeman gave this information causing Mr Moustache to waggle his whiskers at me. “Where hotel?” he asked, reverting back to English. I pulled out a card the hotel had given me when I’d checked in. It clearly stated I was a guest there. I handed it over. Both men studied it and then put it on the table between us. Mr Moustache gestured to my bag and decided to do some mime again. He acted out a scenario in which he looked as if he was injecting himself with something. His sidekick nodded like a galoot. I quickly worked out they wanted to know whether I had any drugs. “No,” I stated. They got me to empty my bag and remove everything from my pockets. Mr Moustache immediately picked up my wallet and began leafing through the Kyrgyz som and US dollars I had, but Mr Friendly was more interested in my camera. He picked it up and tried to 24 I Wicked World I Issue One

turn it on. After failing to do so, he handed it to me to do the job. I powered it up and he started flicking through all the photos and videos I’d taken that day: the man carrying a horse, the Mig fighter Jet and me drinking the kumis. He seemed particularly interested in the latter and asked me to play the video. Within seconds he was laughing furiously, pointing at the camera and then at me. He showed it to Mr Moustache who smiled but continued to poke about inside my wallet. After watching the clip a third time, the policeman did his horse neighing impression again, closely followed by the swimming arm motions. Mr Moustache finally placed the wallet with the rest of my stuff on the table and gestured that I could pack it all away. I did this while his pal still fiddled with my camera. He asked me to pose for a photograph with my own camera. I did so, and he handed the camera back. “Finish,” Mr Moustache said. “You leave.” He stood up and offered his hand, which I shook involuntarily. The other man did the same and I left the room, sweating and wondering what the hell had just happened. Outside, I counted my money but it was all there. Then I looked at the photo the young policeman had taken. It was rather good. If it hadn’t been for the photo, I might have thought I’d dreamed the whole episode. •

The Red Quest is the true story of one man’s insane mission to visit every country of the former Soviet Union. Along the way, the author samples fermented mare’s milk in Kazakhstan, gets chased by hounds in Kiev, is detained by the police in Kyrgyzstan, travels through a snow blizzard between Armenia and Georgia, and gets mugged by a pensioner in Tajikistan.

g n i k l a W k n o M d Dea Text by Tom Vater


he prayer hall is hot and sticky. Thousands of mosquitoes swirl around in the dim afternoon light. A small crowd of old ladies and children sit on the rough carpet in the temple hall, whispering, full of expectation. They are waiting for the monastery’s former abbot, Luang Phoo, to make his annual appearance. Luang Phoo is an affectionate term, meaning grandfather. But Luang Phoo is no ordinary monk and this is no ordinary day. Phra Somchai is in charge of the ceremony. He directs his fellow monks to gently lift Monk Luang Phoo Budda Thawaro up. The monks pull and heave; the wooden chairs they stand on wobble and shake precariously. Suddenly, in perfect coordination, they step off their pedestals, each clasping a fragile limb or shoulder of the revered monk. The children are hushed by their parents. The crowd put their hands together in a respectful wai, the traditional Thai greeting. An old man, dressed in simple farmer’s cottons stands

Photographs by Aroon Thaewchatturat

to the side, his eyes shining with tears. For the locals, this may not be quite a miracle, but it is the most extraordinary day of the year for everyone gathered. Supported by his fellow monks, Monk Luang Phoo Budda Thawaro, hundred and one years old, stands before his congregation. What’s more, Luang Phoo has been dead for thirteen years.

ceremonies takes place in the temple grounds every year, as the local community celebrates the birthday of the former abbot of Wat Krang Chu Si Charoensuk, Luang Phoo.

Phra Somchai has traveled all the way from his monastery in Ko Phangan in southern Thailand for the event, “We believe Monk Budda Thawaro was an enlightened being. In his life time more than 50.000 Wat Krang Chu Si Charoensuk is people used to turn up to celebrate located near Singburi, a provincial Luang Phoo. They came from all town in central Thailand, a couple walks of life, thousands a day.” of hours north of Bangkok. The sprawling and dilapidated temple Phra Somchai was a practicing complex lies along a quiet and monk at Wat Krang Chu Si picturesque canal, fringed by Charoensuk for six years and feels bamboo brush. Green paddy fields deeply indebted to Luang Phoo, “In adjoin the temple grounds. The the 1980s, when Luang Phoo was main road leading past the temple very well known, the temple was sees little traffic. rich. More than a hundred monks Despite the proximity to the capital, lived and meditated here. In 1994, the villages and temples of central the abbot passed away. Since then Thailand have hardly changed the temple has fallen on hard times. in hundreds of years. Faith and People have stopped visiting.” superstition run strong in the It is hard to imagine huge crowds countryside. No surprise then, that one of at Wat Krang Chu Si Charoensuk. Thailand’s strangest Buddhist The temple grounds are barely

kept. The small wooden houses that accommodate the monks are sinking into the dusty hard soil. An eerie silence hangs over the area. No novices lighten the atmosphere, the remaining ten monks are all middleaged or old. Old and severe-looking women from the surrounding villages form the last guard for Luang Phoo. The younger generation takes little interest in temple life.

on a weekly basis. Several temples even offer magical tattoos to their congregations that are supposed to stop bullets and ward off evil. Meanwhile, the monks are out in the streets, taking part in daily life as never before. They populate Internet cafés and the huts of young monks are adorned with Metallica posters. That doesn’t sound like Nirvana. Bad pun, I know. Monks can be seen pouring over hat’s because Buddhism is in mobile phones in shopping centers dire straights in Thailand. or picking through gold bracelets at The young pour into the cities, in pursuit of the dollar and little else. American style ‘mall culture’ has gripped the kingdom; politics are dirty; morality is illusive. Nepotism, cronyism and graft have seeped into every transaction, every political decision. No wonder the intense, freewheeling capitalism the country has experienced in the last ten years has influenced Buddhism and the values of its adherents profoundly. Many wats are often no longer community centers but businesses, selling expensive amulets and other religious merchandise by the truck load. Some wats cater exclusively to the super-rich, others suggest lottery numbers to the gullible poor


Chinese jewelers. The Thai tabloids regularly report on monks conning women into sex, visiting Karaoke Bars or engaging in a whole palette of crimes. Does Richard Gere know? Has Steven Seagal been informed? The ceremony at Wat Krang Chu Si Charoensuk is a throw-back to better times. By all accounts, Luang Phoo attracted his congregation without vulgar fire works. Born in 1894 in Lopburi and ordinated in 1922, the revered monk acted as abbot


for several monasteries, surviving wars, civil conflict, dictatorships and military coups. His charisma brought people to the temple. Under the guidance of Luang Phoo, life at Wat Krang Chu Si Charoensuk bloomed. Phra Somchai fondly remembers the past. “The yard used to be brushed clean. All the buildings were well maintained.” On the edge of a paddy field nearby, an old hut was once used as a meditation retreat. The walls are lined with faded but very bloody and explicit photographs of surgical procedures and autopsies. Guts spill out of moldy frames in order for the monks to realize the physical aspect of human beings. The images are meant to teach the monks that everyone is the same on the inside. But no one has been inside the hut for years.

owadays, Luang Phoo rests in a glass coffin within the wat’s prayer hall. On his birthday, he is lifted from his slumber, cleaned and paraded in front of the ever shrinking congregation. Incredibly, the abbot does not decompose. His body has mummified, allegedly because Luang Phoo dehydrated himself on his deathbed. It is believed that a monk who does not decompose following his days, should be preserved and worshipped. Often local authorities disagree and there have been conflicts over whether to burn some monks’ remains or keep them in a glass coffin, as at Krang Chu Si Charoensuk. Once extracted from the glass coffin, Phra Somchai and his fellow monks gently guide the corpse in front of the crowd. Everyone pushes to the front to pay their respects. Camera flashes illuminate the scene while the monks undress the dead abbot and put a new orange robe on him. A woolly hat is pulled over Luang Phoo’s bald skull. A second hat is pushed on top. Even his socks are changed. Finally,

the crowd pushes in, tiny flakes of gold in their hands. The prayer hall is ringing with excitement and laughter. Children run around and families have their picture takes with the corpse. The gold is stuck on Luang Phoo’s face, already covered in last year’s layer. Finally, Phra Somchai and the other monks pick up Luang Phoo as gingerly as possible and maneuver him back towards his glass coffin. This year the socks aren’t matching, but eventually the monks manage to return the corpse to its repository with sufficient dignity. The temple’s new abbot instructs the remaining monks and they begin to pray for their former abbot. Microphones crackle and the abbot collects money with a wide smile. Slowly the crowd disburses into the night. Phra Somchai is pleased to have traveled all the way from the south to come and see his former teacher. ‘It is good to honor the past like this. Who knows how many people will honor Luang Phoo next year? The memory is so short.” •


isit the author’s website:

Ethiopia Photography Gallery Photos Tom Coote

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tepping into a mine field gives one a whole new appreciation for the term, concentration. Akira tells me to follow him closely and I am practically in his back pocket.

n o i t p m e Red a i d o b m in Ca

The sun is a swirling ball that would be at home in a Van Gogh painting, frying my brains under my helmet and visor that is so close to my nose I feel I am suffocating. I stop every few feet to raise it for a quick breath and quickly lower it to escape Akira’s wrath for disobeying an order. Under my frontal body armor sweat pours as if I were a saturated sponge. The post monsoon humidity in the Cambodian jungle is bad enough without 30 pounds of body armor and three cameras. Having to wear all of this is ironic because if I were to step on a mine it would be useless.

F Text and Pictures by

James Michael Dorsey

ighting our way along the jungle track that enters this primeval world we pass a large H made from cut fabric and spread over a bush, an improvised landing area should a helicopter evacuation be necessary. A litter stands against a pile of body armor, a mocking symbol as the nearest medical help is an hour away by air. Much of the field has been burned away, cleared of brush, while the square areas yet to be checked are outlined with red twine anchored Wicked World I Issue One I 36

at each corner with a bright red deaths head that screams, “mines” That eyeless skull is everywhere, a constant reminder that this country has known war for most of its existence. The Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot called land mines, “The perfect soldier” as they were designed to maim rather than kill. We pass one de-miner after another,

jungle, working, sleeping in a hammock, trapping snakes and birds for food, and sharing his teams’ danger. Orphaned by age 8, an approximation since there are no written records; Akira was taken in by the Khmer Rouge and made a child soldier, trained as an explosives expert, and made to plant land mines; a job he admits to

understandable trait in a country that produced soldiers as young as six years old. When you are brought up in that mindset, it is difficult to break away. On top of everything else, the death of his wife Hourt, two years ago left him a shattered man. He freely admits that the only thing that makes him happy is personally disarming a land mine. He would

moving forward at glacial speed, sweeping the ground inch by inch. Akira, normally smiling and nonchalant, barks orders like a drill sergeant, watching everyone at once, looking for the slightest technique infractions and in constant communication with everyone through his ear piece. In this dance where the slightest misstep means death or disfigurement he is the master choreographer watching his pupils.

becoming quickly adept at. At 13 he was captured and forced to join the invading Vietnamese army, fighting against his former friends, while still planting mines. According to him, he could easily lay 100 in a single day. At 14, when the Vietnamese withdrew from Cambodia, he was drafted into the Cambodian army and made an officer, one of the most skilled demolition experts in Cambodia while still a child and a combat veteran of three separate armies. At 19 he was recruited by the United Nations but his growing awareness of what he had done as a child brought him an epiphany. He would not work for anyone else again. Instead, he would devote the rest of his life to removing the deadly objects he himself installed. All these years later he still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and removes himself to the jungle when he feels rage taking over. He says he still gets the urge to kill, an

like to remove each one himself, taking out the detonator with his fingers, but bows to political pressure to follow accepted procedures in order to keep his license. When a mine is located a small square of reclaimed TNT with a radio controlled detonator is laid next to it, and everyone backs off a paced 75 yards to kneel down for the explosion. Even from that distance, the detonation of a small antipersonnel mine is like a whack in the chest from a hammer. There is a physical shock wave that invades your body. I watch a mushroom cloud of dirt rise 40 feet in the air as one more mine is eliminated.


eing chosen as a CNN HERO in 2010 brought Akira international fame and in 2012 he won the Manhae Peace Prize awarded by South Korea, but that changes nothing for him. This man who now meets with prime ministers and billionaires is humble and selfeffacing, the kind of guy who gets lost in a crowd were it not for the fact that he is a living national treasure. For him there is only the work. He is only truly happy in the 37 I Wicked World I Issue One


neeling behind one of the deminers, a young girl of 20, I synch my breathing to hers, moving as she moves, sliding my knees ever so gently, watching for any tell-tale sign or a depression in the dirt. She uses gardening

minutes he has lived up to his slogan, “One mine at a time.” All of the team is young; at about 40 Akira is the eldest by far. They are all dedicated professionals who are aware of the nobility of their work and are intensely proud. Three of them are young girls and the senior field supervisor is a young woman of 24 who uses her meager salary of about $250 US dollars a month to fund a library and school for her village. There is no dark humor here, no death jokes, as that is a passenger on everyone’s shoulders whenever they are at work. They have chosen a life of self-denial that is almost as monastic as the Saffron robed monks the country is known for. In their military fatigues bearing the logo of the de-mining organization, they are treated as local heroes and Akira is rapidly attaining superstar status. By his own estimate, it will take another decade to rid

shears to clear overhanging brush and runs a knife around the edges of her detector to make sure it is functioning properly before passing it almost unperceptively over the ground from left to right then back again several times. It is like watching paint dry and yet the only sound is the beating of my own heart. It is the most intense feeling, senses heightened, sound magnified, ears scanning for the slightest nuance, eyes probing through the dirt itself. When that six inch swath gives no warning she moves the red painted board forward to the limit of her scan, another few inches made safe. In an hour we move ten feet when a screech comes over the headphones and she kneels, slowly begins to clear dirt, inserting her trowel at an angle so as not to apply any pressure on the mine should that prove to be the culprit. A mere 10 pounds of pressure is all it takes to enter the hereafter. With infinite patience she scoops dirt away revealing the green curved rim of a Russian made anti-personnel mine. It is only six inches around and four inches high Cambodia of most of its land mines. but packed with ball bearings that when ignited will send dozens of and mines date back hundreds metal balls screaming at 300 miles of years and are found in over per hour to rip a human body to 100 countries, but Cambodia, pieces. Word goes out over the radio with its war torn past, is near the and Akira comes running. In a few top of the list for sheer saturation.


In Cambodia today there are an estimated 63,000 land mine victims alive and that means one out of every 290 people in the country has suffered from their destructive power. While Akira believes he has personally cleared about 50,000 of them, there is still an estimated 3-5 million left in the ground. Worldwide it is estimated that close to 100 million land mines are still in the ground, many left from the second world war but still lethal none the less. While industrial nations are loathe to give out casualty figures, the de-miners I was with claim there are close to 4000 victims of the “perfect soldier” annually.


o one knows how much unexploded ordinance is still in the ground worldwide. Each unexploded bomb, rocket, missile, mortar and artillery round is a time bomb waiting for ignition as there is no time limit at which they become inactive. The longer they lay buried, the more unstable they become. When I leave I take a final look at Akira sitting by a campfire laughing with his troops. It had been a good day. He had blown up five mines.

For additional information please visit :

or Wicked World I Issue One I 38

Sonchy’s Silk Road Adventure

Central Asian Film Event

Buzkashii! • The Light Thief • Desert of Forbidden Art • Buddhas of Mes Aynak Boxing Girls of Kabul • Lonely Planet’s ‘Globe Trekkers’ Silk Road Series • Buzkashi Boys The film event, ‘Sonchy’s Silk Road Adventure’, will take place in Toronto, Ontario, tentatively the weekend of July 26th. The purpose of the event is to showcase the Central Asian region to a wide audience with the hope of increasing tourism to the area and its projects. Since Central Asia is still a very mysterious place for most people, we want to help unlock its potential for tourism and we can only do that with your support.We are looking for potential sponsors and prizes for attendees of this event. We are looking for local restaurants to provide Central Asian foods, folk and art presentations and speakers to talk about their experience in the region and support various NGO’s who are in desperate need of funding. We would like to give local artisans the opportunity to share their culture and experiences with those at the festival. In exchange, your organization or brand will be featured on relevant promotional material and online content. For more information contact Michael Soncina by email at or by phone at (647)-637-8433.

r o f l a v A Festi . . . s t s o h G y r g n Hu

When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the streets of Malaysia and Singapore, looking for mundane entertainment‌

Words by Marco Ferrarese Photographs by Chan Kit Yeng


n the stage tonight, a scantily clad Chinese Venus is seeking some serious attention. Cheeky spotlights play hide and seek around the tiny cloth wrapped tightly around her long, sexy legs. They bend passionately as she injects pure pop sugar into the mike. In a normal world, such a beauty queen would deserve encores and big rose buckets shoved at her feet as a prelude

to 5 star spangled nights. But not tonight: as she performs to a row of sad, empty seats, one may wonder what is wrong and take a closer curious peek. “Do not sit at the front rows!” screams Ang Hoi over the pounding dance beats. He is a Chinese shop owner, turned medium for the occasion. “Those chairs are reserved to the ghosts!” he insists.

It is hard to believe, but tonight demons and spirits are fluttering all around us. This is not the kind of superstition you would expect to find in Malaysia and Singapore, fast developing and leading Southeast Asian nations where technology and luxury comforts have apparently steamrolled traditions and folklore into a steel and concrete mass grave. To prove wrong, the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendarstarting around mid to late August - is dedicated to one of the most colorful and entertaining festivals in Southeast Asia: the Hungry Ghost. Based on the huaren (overseas Chinese) beliefs, this is the time when the King of Hell Tua-su-yah slams the gates of Hell open and unleashes his army of “hungry ghosts” upon Earth.

You do not want to mess with them”, Mr Hoi continues frantically. “They deserve our uttermost respect, as they are back from Hell…such a bad, hard place! They are hungry for life!” Fear not, as they do not come to feast on human flesh. On the contrary, they look for those living comforts they have been craving for in the poorly stocked aisles of Supermarket Hell: tasty food, respectful prayers and trivial entertainment.


his is the reason why for a whole month the lives of the Chinese community change abruptly from the 6 to 9 working grind to a parade of burlesque devotion: at most street corners, impromptu home-made temples cum stage display towers of fruit, cold beers, and rigid, legless barbequed pigs to satiate the ghastly hunger. Devotees with colored joss sticks come and go all day long drawing slow, smoky circles in the air. Tua-suyah, materialized into a 6 meters tall Demon King made of colorful cardboard, enjoys the show from his paper throne: he loves this mumbling soundtrack of hissing

perfect reproductions of human money with a King of Hell’s face emblazoned in the center. “When espect for the deceased: they come back to this is what makes the industrious huaren stop part us for a month every of their daily business to counter year, we have to attack the infernal hordes by give them something praying to the altars and organizing special to help their life in Hell”. She sets Chinese opera performances for fire to an amount of the joy of the dead. As for the Hell’s currency able sexy singing shows, they have a special VIP ghost area which is not to buy real estate in the human world: a accessible to the human visitors, humble gift to her only allowed to sit at the back. dead parents. “I think they are crazy” confesses “I am sending them a Malay Muslim passerby, “they a bit of money for the should not mess with the spirits, it is dangerous… in my religion, we upcoming year”, she concludes smiling. are taught to steer well clear from the supernatural“ When the end of the month comes closer, he huaren seem to have and the ghastly a different conception of hunger is satiated, a their cult of the dead: “Our howling procession of ancestors feel very lonely down screaming devotees there. They miss this world and will carry the statues their past lives” confesses Chook of Tua-su-yah all Moi, a middle aged lady pausing around town for a last from her ghostly errands. She glorious ride. As the is burning a stack of Hell notes,

prayers. He grins motionless, showing a pair of menacing paper fangs.



clock strikes midnight and the last Hell notes have been piled up high on huge pyres, the Demon King is sent back to Hell in a ritual street bonfire. His ugly grin morphs into a smile as the fire melts money and paper flesh together, sealing off this odd carnival with flaming gasoline. “I still do not see why they have

the sexy singing shows” wonders a French tourist caught into the street parade,”It looks so out of place!”


s we see younger and older generations of happy huaren men coming together during the Hungry Ghost festival, we suppose devotion is

not the strongest bond linking humans, ghosts and Tua-su-yah. Anyhow, as the yearly Grand Hell’s Opening brings so much diversion to the work obsessed routines of the industrious Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese, we may as well close eyes on the matter and enjoy some miniskirt exorcism. •

SCREAMERS In 2006 System of a Down, the multi-platinum selling Armenian-American Nu-Metallers, financed a film called Screamers about the Armenian Genocide


ccording to the introduction to Screamers given by the journalist and academic Samantha Powers, a 'Screamer' is an individual capable of fully processing the reality of genocide, and therefore compelled to do whatever they can to prevent it. Interspersed with concert footage from around the world are interviews with human rights activists, band members, academics and a selection of naĂŻve but enthusiastic fans. They all seem to agree that killing lots of people is bad. All of the members of System of a Down have Armenian roots, and all seem to have relatives who were in some way connected to the Ottoman Empires systematic extermination of between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians during and after the First World War. The word genocide was coined to describe these events but even today the Turkish government denies that the word genocide is an accurate description of what really happened. They are not alone. So far - despite the overwhelming historical evidence - only 20 countries have officially recognised the Armenian Genocide. Much to the shame and embarrassment of many Jews, even the state of Israel refuses to officially acknowledge the twentieth century's first great genocide. It's not that these governments don't think it happened - it's just that they don't want to upset Turkey when they have proved to be such a convenient ally, both during the Cold War and, more recently, as a buffer zone between Europe and other less amenable parts of the Middle East. System of a Down seem intent on

if we accept that the Armenian Genocide is far less well known than the Nazi genocide of the Jews, none of the hundreds of books or film about the Holocaust helped to prevent subsequent genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. Despite having the courage and conviction to invest their money and reputation into such a well meaning documentary, System of a Down fail to take such anti-genocide rhetoric to its logical conclusion. Others involved in the film, such as Samantha Power - an influential academic and an advisor to Barack Obama - have been far more direct about what it really takes to prevent genocide: she is considered by many to have been the key figure persuading all individuals and within the Obama administration governments to acknowledge the in persuading the president to full magnitude and systematic intervene militarily in Libya (she nature of such slaughter. Time is also known for advocating that and time again we are told that governments must acknowledge the America send armed military forces, Armenian genocide so that nothing 'a mammoth protection force' and an 'external intervention', to impose like this can ever happen again. It a settlement between Israel and the is never really explained how this Palestinians). Other recent examples might work. As we are reminded of successful military intervention at the beginning of the film, Hitler include Tony Blair's deployment was well aware of the Armenian Genocide, as was Winston Churchill of British troops in Sierra Leone in opposition to the murderous and, I would assume, all other RUF (arguably emboldening world leaders of the time. This further military intervention in didn't stop millions of Jews from both Afghanistan and Iraq). Such being killed in the Holocaust. Even uncomfortable realities, however, might prove to be something of a hard sell to the legions of alternative rock and metal fans shown queuing up for System of a Down's riotous live shows. 'I'm quite anti-Bush and anti-Blair, generally' proclaims one long haired rocker, 'I think that's a good message to have, being antiwar.' •

Wicked World I Issue One I 45

Future Features

The Dark Art of Ahad Hosseini * Hard as the Heart of Harar: Down & Out in Ethiopia's Holy City * Shillong: India Rock City * Paradise with Side Effects * Sebastian Salgado: The Genesis Project * The World Through Graphic Novels: Palestine, Persepolis & Pyongyang

Wicked World Issue One  

Alternative Travel Magazine: Travel, Dark Arts and the Global Underground