November 24, 2010
For those who think that the zine is only a recent, Western phenomenon, look no further than the Malaysian zine Mosh to have your expectations demolished. This political, punk-rock zine out of southeast Asia is celebrating its tenth anniversary and thirteenth issue this year, thanks to creator Nizang and an increasingly organized zine-writing community in and around Kuala Lumpur.
When Nizang began publishing Mosh in 1999, at the age of 17, the community in Malaysia was deep underground. “I thought there were no zines from my hometown at that time, and decided I should do one," he says. "Then I realized there were a few zines there, actually; they contacted me and we’re still close friends now.”
Even though the community is stronger than Nizang had once thought, it’s still growing. “Zine communities and collectives are still a very new thing nowadays in Malaysia," he says. "It’s just started to pop out. We have Kudeta Collective, which carries a lot of political zines, and the newly formed Kolektif Kaki Ketik, which aims to organizes zine events as well as publishes zine compilations and books.”
Though still in its infant stages in Kuala Lumpur, a community based around independent publishing has nonetheless begun to materialize. Nizang remains cautiously optimistic about the future of Malaysian independent publishing. “It’s all good, but it’s just at a starting stage," he says. "Hopefully in 5-10 years' time, the independent publishing will be merrier with various genres, plus better quality of writing and printing.”
In short, Malaysia needs zines like this. After several setbacks and hiatuses, Nizang realized how important his zine was when no new zines appeared to fill the niche he left behind. He continues to publish Mosh because he feels there is a need for it, despite its frequent absences.
Part of its longevity is undoubtedly due to the fact that the zine, like any good piece of art, is constantly changing and evolving. Although it started as a local skateboarding and underground music zine, Mosh has changed focus to cover more personal material and, as Nizang says, “ranting.”
“My favorite part used to be doing the interviews," he says, "but nowadays it’s the real-life stories. I’ll be very excited anytime I have something in mind to write about."
One thing that hasn’t changed is the dynamic and colorful DIY aesthetic of the covers, which are anything but mainstream or polished. Nizang thinks of his zines as a special product, and he stresses, “Be honest in what you write, because your published writings will remain forever in the hands of your readers. Don’t forget that people might still be reading your writings in 10 years' time after the date it was written.”
Though Mosh used to be published in a mixture of Malay and English, it’s now “95-100% English,” and the language barrier can cause some confusion. He recalls, “I nearly got beaten up because I referred to some metal-music old-timers at my hometown as ‘old dogs.’ Two metal-heads came and warned and threatened me and said I shouldn’t write like that because dogs are considered ‘dirty.’ They took the term literally; that’s funny.”
Nizang also understands the importance of branching out in order to remain relevant. In 2010, he helped to set up the Kuala Lumpur Zine Fest. “There was no event specifically to celebrate zine culture for a long time here," he says. "We had zine selling, trading, some light music performances, and also zine-reading sessions. It was fun, and my friends and I are looking forward to organizing some more zine-related events in the future.”