Seminar: Melting Mosh Pit: Extreme Music Performance in Multi-ethnic Malaysia, 2010-2015



This seminar focuses on the way in which globalised extreme music – defined as a concoction of modern, extreme fringes of heavy metal and punk – manifests itself in Malaysia. A multi-ethnic, multi-religious and fast developing Southeast Asian society where class and ethnicity mark physical, sociocultural and political space, the construction and negotiation of ‘authentic’ extreme music identities in Malaysia are affected by both the global-local music scene dynamics and pre-existing markers of ethnic identity. Malaysian social reality is highly fractured between ‘everyday-defined’ and ‘authority-defined’ contexts – constructed by those who are part of the nation’s dominant power structure, and who ‘represent’ its ascribed Malay majority. As such, the performance of extreme music is seemingly dependent not only upon the authenticity-defined boundaries of global extreme music performance, but also upon the friction between ‘everyday-defined’ and ‘authority-defined’ spheres of ethnicised Malaysian society.

Data collected through insider ethnography and in-depth interviews with 40 multi-ethnic Malaysian extreme music scene’s participants in different locales in West and East Malaysia suggest two main findings. First, extreme music in the early 2010s Malaysia is performed by referencing metal and punk’s authenticating global codes. Second, pre-existing markers of ethnic identity influence the construction of diverse Malaysian extreme music identities, creating ‘sedimented hybrids’. These multi-layered identities blend pre-existing socio-political, ethnic, religious, or policing aspects of Malaysian ethnic identity with the buttress provided by global ‘authenticating’ codes of extreme music performance.

On the one hand, the Malay-Muslim majority in Malaysia performs extreme music by respecting the boundaries set by both authenticity-defined globalising subcultural models, and clashing with authority-defined Malaysian social reality. On the other hand, ethnic minorities demonstrate less dependency on authority-definitions, using extreme music as a site for social empowerment and construction of ethnically-transcending Malaysian identities. Regardless of this major distinction, the narratives of all ethnic groups represented in this study suggest that between 2010 and 2015, Malaysian extreme music configures a social space where inter-ethnic solidarity and discourses are significantly promoted at an accessible grassroots level that is not limited to Malaysia’s artistic and cultural elite.


Marco Ferrarese is a musician, freelance travel writer, author and Ph.D. candidate at Monash University Malaysia. He has played guitar, recorded and toured internationally with Italian metal-punk band The Nerds until 2007, before relocating to the People’s Republic of China to teach languages at Hebei Normal University of Science and Technology, Qinhuangdao. He has been teaching, travelling and researching in the greater Asian region since 2008, with a particular focus on Insular Southeast Asia and its extreme music scenes. He is the author of novel Nazi Goreng (Monsoon Books, 2013) – currently banned in Malaysia – and Banana Punk Rawk Trails: A Euro-Fool’s Metal Punk Journeys in Malaysia, Borneo and Indonesia (SIRD, 2016). He also currently plays guitar and records with thrash-core band WEOT SKAM in Penang, Malaysia.

For registration, please fill in this form and email to by 9 March 2016.



Mar 10 2016


3:00 pm - 4:30 pm


ISEAS Seminar Room 2