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t’s a big night for Zerobridge: The rock band is about to take on CBGB, the highest-profile rock club in New York history, set to shut down in the middle of October. The legendary venue was once the breeding ground for revolutionary bands such as the Ramones, Television and Blondie. Rock enthusiasts revere it as the “Smithsonian of music”—where music changed. And on this crisp Saturday night, two Kashmiri brothers and their third bandmate join rock history to play for their first and only time on the celebrated, graffiti-covered stage.

Mubashir Mohi-ud-din (“Din”), lead singer/songwriter and guitarist, turns to the drummer—his younger brother, Mohsin (“Mo”): “Alright, kid. Wanna hit it?”

People conversing by the bar begin to shift their attention toward the band. The area near the stage is steadily filling up. The three members, including Greg Eckelman (affectionately known as “The Quota,” a nickname that stems from being the only non-South Asian in the group) on bass, are focused as they begin the set. Their rock music is influenced, Din says, by his interpretation of the bands he’s loved, such as U2, Joy Division/New Order and the Clash.

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“People told me playing [at CBGB] is something we can tell our grandkids,” says Mo. “We just wanted to do this for us. We didn’t even care how many people would show up.”

But people did show up. A lot of them. By the end of the night, the tiny club was packed.

Brotherly Love

They didn’t think they’d play on that stage before CBGB’s untimely demise. They probably didn’t even imagine that Earl Slick, legendary guitarist for David Bowie and John Lennon, would take notice of their music early on. And they definitely didn’t predict collaborating with Slick to produce some of their fans’ concert favorites.

For a Good Cause

The benefit in the name of Anayatullah Bhatt’s tragic death will be hosted by Zerobridge on Saturday, January 20, at Club Midway in New York. The benefit will raise money for CHINAR, Child Nurture and Relief, an independent, nonprofit organization working for the psychosocial rehabilitation of orphaned children in conflict areas—regardless of race, religion, culture or gender. Three other acts will perform along with Zerobridge and special guest Earl Slick. Visit Zerobridge’s web site for details.

But Zerobridge has been able to accomplish all that and more: The rising rockers were recently displayed on the homepage of Artist Direct, a web site that features many up-and-coming bands; Mo got a gig as a co-VJ on MTV-U; they will film their first music video this month; and, most notably, they were asked once again to showcase this year at the CMJ Festival, a huge honor for any band still trying to make a name among industry bigwigs.

“It’s long overdue recognition,” says freelancer writer Sana Amanat, a Zerobridge fan. “They aren’t trying to impress anyone. They are real, true musicians. You can’t fake that talent.”

They’ve come a long way from informally jamming eight years earlier in the basement of the Potomac, Maryland, Mohi-ud-din home.

“It’s the weirdest thing in the world,” Din, 30, says. “I never imagined myself playing with my baby brother.”

When Mo (now 21) was only 13 years old, he taught himself to play the drums by listening to old records and trying to play along. “I would wait till [Din] was where I knew he could hear me and start banging my drums to get his attention,” he says.

“At first I would just roll my eyes, but I saw that he was getting really good,” Din says. “We started a recording project, and it just snowballed from there.”

The brothers’ natural rapport is hard to ignore when performing live. “Mohsin respects the band more than anything,” says Adam El-Alfi, Mo’s best friend. “When he is playing, his eyes are on two things: His drums and his brother. They are the only things that matter while on stage.”

Soon after Mo joined Din in New York to attend Fordham University, Eckelman joined as bass player, completing the band. “When Greg came into the picture, everything changed,” according to Mo. “He added such a dynamic, and we just gelled.”

They probably never imagined that Earl Slick, legendary guitarist for David Bowie and John Lennon, would take notice of their music early on.

Kashmiri Conscious

“You just don’t hear about too many South Asians in a rock band and pursuing it seriously,” Din says. “We know we have something to say, and we’re very conscious of that.”

Indeed, Zerobridge isn’t afraid to explore provocative issues such as human suffering and religious extremism. Beginning with paying homage to the disputed land of Kashmir by naming the band after an actual bridge in its capital, Srinagar, Din’s songs go on to describe the land they see when they visit: “Suffering Moses” is an ode to Kashmir, while “Refugee Citizen” details the pain of “living under the gun.” The band’s song “The Shake” points out the hypocrisies of religious fanatics with lines that refer to mullahs being “stuck in the 7th Century.”

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“They address political issues in an unaffected way,” says fellow musician and friend David Jack Daniels. “Lots of bands would steer clear of that for fear of being pegged as caring too much about the world or being ‘thinkers,’ but they do it in a compassionate way.”

Upcoming Live

Catch Zerobridge live at the Knitting Factory (74 Leonard St.) in New York City on Wednesday, November 29, at 8 p.m. And you can leave your ID at home—it’s an all ages show.

Aizaz Akram, a DJ and Zerobridge fan, notes that much of their expression is drawn from their time spent in Kashmir. “They really reflect on their background,” he says. “It definitely sets them apart and gives their music a very true-to-life quality.”

“[The brothers] grew up with a certain musicality within their culture, and you can really hear it in our music,” Eckelman adds.

Din says he always keeps in mind the context of his songs, even while performing. “The songs are very raw and emotional—they come from a very familiar, desperate, political, and personal place,” he describes. “We’re very uncool because we wear our hearts on our sleeve. If people think it’s being too melodramatic, that’s okay. If people think it’s great, then great.”

Zerobridge has been doing its part to remind people of the tension that still exists in Kashmir, whether by singing about it or by taking action. This winter, the band will host a benefit in New York to raise awareness of a recent death—one that strikes a more personal chord for them.

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When the brothers were in Kashmir last June, 26-year-old musician Anayatullah Bhatt was shot and killed by a soldier in the Indian military soon after he filed a report of harassment by the same soldier. Upon hearing the news, the brothers immediately visited the family.

“I saw myself and what we were doing in him, and we immediately wanted to know more about who he was,” says Din. “We talked to his father, and realized we had to do something positive. We want to shed light on what goes on in Kashmir on a daily basis. They’re sick of the violence, and they want a solution that recognizes their dignity because they’ve suffered a lot. It’s gone on too long.”

“When we visited the family, it was overwhelming,” Mo adds. “They immediately started asking us how we were going to help. This is our opportunity to do something for the people who are suffering daily.”

Zerobridge will donate all profits to CHINAR, Child Nurture and Relief, a nonprofit organization working to relieve child suffering in conflict areas around the world.

Parental Advisory

With no other musicians in their Muslim household (their other brother, Raj, is a physician), the brothers worked hard to show they were taking the band seriously.

“Of course, for my parents it was tough,” Din says. “But when you’re an adolescent and passionate about something, nothing really matters. Music made me feel completely alive and it comes from the heart; the idea was so great to me, and still is.”

With no other musicians in their Muslim household (their other brother, Raj, is a physician), the brothers worked hard to show they were taking the band seriously.

Din’s father, gastroenterologist Dr. Ghulam Mohi-ud-din, says he and his wife Sakina noticed his son’s interest in music early on. Though they weren’t sure their sons would want to push it this far, they remain supportive.

Hear It Now

Download these three Zerobridge songs for free:
“Don’t Ask Me”
“It Is What It Is”
“The Shake”

“I used to see Mubashir working very hard all the time, and I remember asking if he could try pursuing another career,” he says. “He told me, ‘Dad, when I play music, I see the smiles on people’s faces and that gives me the most satisfaction.’ When he said that, I just knew I would always be on his side.”

“I know they’re working hard and I’m very proud of them,” adds their mother. “I want to see them successful. I’m always praying for that.”

Dr. Mohi-ud-din says listening to their songs now brings about nostalgia from when his sons would play at home. “The whole neighborhood would enjoy the music when the brothers would rehearse in the garage,” he says with a laugh. “I miss those things. I have their CD in my car, and the music brings me back to those times.”

“The more they listen to it, they really like it and that’s gratifying.” Din says. “They are behind us 100 percent, and that means a lot to me.

Though it seems like they’ve already covered a lot of ground, there’s still work to be done—securing a record deal being one. But, as Daniels puts it, “They’ll progress at their own rate and that’s cool. They’re living their dream, even if they don’t already know it, yet.”

Back at CBGB, near the end of Zerobridge’s set, the now full-house crowd is mostly on its feet, many dancing. The earlier polite clapping evolves into louder cheers. Whether they are really there for the closing of the famous club or to see the unlikely trio play their tunes, one thing is evident: Zerobridge may have just won over the crowd. n

Shyema Azam wanted to be a rock star but decided she’s much better off writing about them instead.
Published on November 6, 2006.
Photography: Main image by Adam El-Alfi, taken at CBGB: (l-r) Greg, Din and Mohsin. Inset photos by Aizaz Akram.
Comments are closed.
  1. November 7, 2006, 11:52 am Sarah

    This is a great story, Zerobridge is definitely an awesome band, I’m glad you captured their essence like this. it’s always good to read more about the soul of a band and what makes them click. Can’t wait to see them perform soon.

  2. February 6, 2007, 10:42 pm Sangs

    This is a great band, but clearly Eckelman is carrying them on his back, just like he carried The Phoids.

  3. December 16, 2007, 2:04 am rahul

    I wish ZB were equally adept at weaving the travails of exiled KPs into their lyrics. Ought to bring about an even keel. Alas..

  4. January 14, 2008, 1:10 pm rockcritic

    Anyone who knows zerobridge and is a true fan of their music knows that when they choose to sing about politics, they don’t exclude anyone. In regards to Kashmir in particular, they are too familiar with the situation to be one sided, having visited and lived in the place throughout their lives. Rahul, if you really take the time to listen, you’ll realise they speak and relate to everyone who has suffered and lost in the conflict, including the Kashmiri Pundits. In fact on their first record one of the best songs, entitled “Nazar,” was influenced by the novel “The Tiger Ladies,” written by Sudha Kaul, a Kashmiri Pundit who tells her true story of growing up in Kashmir amidst times of peace and violence. Unfortunately not many people have heard that record. Hopefully they will rerelease the song at some point. Try downloading it on limewire or some other site. And listen to the lyrics of Suffering Moses. Who can they possibly alienate in that song?! zerobridge are a great band and have the potential to do great things. if you don’t get that, then it’s just too bad.

  5. April 1, 2008, 9:34 pm Ben Kar

    Enough of muslim suffering in Kashmir. Why can’t you talk about the atrocities muslims have committed on hindus. Muslims with the help of terrorists from Pakistan have killed thousands of innocent Kashmir Pandits They have driven out all the Pundits from Kashmir which is nothing but ethnic cleansing. So don’t try to tell lies through your music. What goes around comes around. Muslims were not native to India and Kshmir was part of India and will remain a part of India. So sing a song for India and not just for cruel muslims.