PETALING JAYA: Rocker Khai Aziz has issued a battle cry to Malaysian youth: Be a rebel with a cause.
The lead singer of local punk band Second Combat is also heading the pack in a sober revolution.
He uses his music as weapon and inspiration in the fight against drugs, and founded the Drug Free Youth Association (DFYA) Malaysia in 2010.
Khai, 38, works to help young people resist the lure of drugs via music, fashion, even creative writing and extreme sports.
“I’m not saying it’s easy to stay away from drugs, I know it’s not – I started smoking and drinking at 13, I have tried drugs. But I left that all behind.
“I’m saying it’s possible to stay away, especially if you have a mentor to help – which is where the DFYA comes in,” said Khai.
Over the years, he watched the dragnet of drug addiction suck his own friends and brother in.
“My brother is still fighting it.
“I was about 16 when he was arrested. It was devastating and that marked a turning point for me.”
Another pivotal moment was in 2010, when Khai and his aunt went to a fishing village to save a little girl from being sold by her father for drug money.
Right after, he quit his day job and became a full-time activist.
Khai himself walks the Straight Edge path. Often denoted as sXe, this is a subculture born in the hardcore punk scene of the early 80s.
“Second Combat was the first local band to pledge to be Straight Edge, back in 1999.
“This is not a practice, it is something you live. It is cool, and that is what gives it an ‘edge’ in the fight against drugs – kids connect and identify to the music, and they look up to the bands.”
Advocates abstain from drugs, alcohol, tobacco and promiscuous sex.
Khai said that while there may be a negative perception of the hardcore punk movement, this is rooted in a lack of knowledge.
“Any scene or sub-culture has its good and bad – and we are doing good things.”
The DFYA has gotten about 15 bands across various genres – from punk to hip hop – to pledge to stay away from drugs.
The organisation goes into schools and colleges to provide motivational talks, often accompanied by a short performance; Khai was even a speaker at TEDxYouth@KL in 2014.
“We have encountered some resistance, with threats to slash our tyres etc. But we believe in what we are doing.
“We are putting together a Straight Edge kit, with a CD and a book compiled from our seminars,” he said.
It’s an educational guide on remaining drug-free, and fund-raising for that and a DFYA centre is ongoing through the Revolusi Sober Anak Muda campaign.
Even as Khai looks to get his positive message across to as many young people as possible, his work still echoes the rebellious spirit of the punk movement itself.
“We believe in rebelling through better living. You can be a real punk without wasting your life.”