Built in 1914, the sumptuous Pulaski Park Fieldhouse was designed in an Eastern European architectural style, complete with tile roofs and timber framing. Its structure, along with its namesake, Casimir Pulaski, reflected the taste of what was formerly a predominately Polish neighborhood.
It’s interior is home to a massive, arching WPA mural which bends across the proscenium of the main meeting hall of the fieldhouse. Last Wednesday night, it dwarfed members of the Islamic hardcore punk band Al-Thawra who were playing onstage directly below it. Arabic for “the revolution,” Al-Thawra’s driving, low-register set of songs drilled through the echoey room, representing Chicago’s strand of the burgeoning Taqwacore scene at full volume.
Taqwa translates from the Arabic word to mean "god-consciousness," and Taqwacore the term is a fusion between this Arabic term and the “core” from the end of hardcore. Al-Thawra consists of ringleader Marwan, whose lo-fi, throaty growls, pneumatic guitar riffs and politically sensitive samples are the bands brain trust. Mario’s thumping bass work keeps tunes in time while Micah, the multi-instrumentalist drum, drum machine and stand drum player adds authentic, regional sounds to compliment the samples and vary the otherwise prototypical hardcore sound.
Al-Thawra was joined on stage by Toronto-based filmmaker Omar Majeed, whose forthcoming documentary on Taqwacore includes clips of their previous Taqwa-tour, as well as London-based actor and rapper Riz MC, and Chicago hip-hop mainstay All Natural.
The bill was put together by up and coming Chicago arts and culture organization Homeroom, a non-for-profit that will focus on bringing arts and music events to an all-ages audience once they raise funds to open a permanent location. In the meantime, track their progress at their website and look for events they’ll sponsor throughout town.
--Thea Liberty Nichols