Student explores heavy metal music, Indian culture in research

Trip inspired by essay for class, turned into study of music, study of social class



“You’d just be walking down the street and you’d see other metal-heads wearing leather vests,” Daniel Cullinan said.

CHERYL AARNIO, Evergreen reporter

Daniel Cullinan, a history major at WSU, spent a month last summer doing research in India. Now he’s writing an article on heavy metal he hopes to publish in a scholarly journal.

Cullinan’s interest in the topic stemmed from work in an Asian studies course, in which he interviewed Mushaf Nazeer, a guitarist for the Indian doom metal band Djinn and Miskatonic and several other musicians for an essay.

After submitting his work to a symposium, Cullinan was encouraged to apply for a scholarship so he could go to India to continue to do his research.

While there, Cullinan interviewed people who were part of the heavy metal scene, from those in bands to people who owned record labels or stores.

He also went to heavy metal festivals. One was Bangalore Open Air, which is the largest in India. Many of the groups playing at that festival were foreign, so he saw the American bands Overkill and Immolation and the French band Alcest. Other shows he went to were made up entirely of Indian heavy metal bands.

Cullinan said he noticed certain trends for those listening to heavy metal in India.

In the U.S., the majority of people who listen to metal are working class, he said. But in India the demographics are different.

“Most of the people that are into the [heavy metal] music are pretty wealthy people or at least they come from wealthy families,” he said.

India has a small working class compared to that of the U.S., Cullinan said. That’s part of the reason why heavy metal is more popular for the upper class.

“There’s a massive number of people that are extremely destitute, but then there’s also a very large number of people that are quite wealthy,” Cullinan said.

Cullinan traveled all throughout India, including Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata and the states of Meghalaya and Assam.

When he went to Guwahati and Shillong, two northeast Indian cities within Assam and Meghalaya respectively, he said he was shocked to see the heavy metal culture there.

“It was really weird. It was like the only places that I went to in India where you’d just be walking down the street and you’d see other metal-heads wearing leather vests and leather jackets and band shirts,” he said. “This kind of distinctly Western look is a big thing [in those cities].”

In most of India, the metal scene is small, but it is dedicated, Callinan said.

“The metal community has really helped to transcend a lot of these traditionally dividing issues [such as religion] in the country,” he said.