This article originally appeared on Boston Band Crush ). Poking around on Wikipedia, I came across the entry on the word Ketman (linked here). The concept of Ketman was so awesome that it got me to thinking about other interesting band names and how bands come to align themselves with a name. Ultimately, this all inspired me to start this column exploring band names. I went and asked Ketman frontman, Eric Penna how he encountered the concept of Ketman and how it relates to the music he makes:
“I studied Eastern European history in college knowing full well that when I was done with all those sound ideas and committed myself to touring and being in a band as my primary reason for existing, I would have the philosophical ammunition necessary to start an interesting band. The name KETMAN was the first solid step in this direction. I’ve learned with time that people don’t have much interest in investing brain power in order to get something out of a band. Those that do however, have a more personal, fulfilling relationship with music. In order to really be
appreciated, I think our music requires engagement. I actually believe all music should be engaged creating a give and take between the players and listeners. This would make for a far more colorful world and one that would snuff out passivity and complacency, two things I find corroding the world around me.
One who is a Ketman rises to power in a system they oppose. Once they achieve a high status in the opposing system, they reveal their real selves and dismantle the opposition from within. The origins of the word come from Persia in the mid 19th century where the philosopher Gobineau observed some who would rise in the ranks of religious sects opposing their real beliefs only to eventual expose the infidels to their errors.
A more modern day example of this is an undercover cop who infiltrates a drug ring only to eventually destroy it from within. As with these two examples, Ketman can manifest itself in many ways. In the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz’s book the Captive Mind (where I first came into contact with the idea) he cites many different forms of Ketman that existed in Communist-era Eastern Europe.
One explanation for the lack of bloodshed at the end of Communism (with the exception of Romania) is that everyone was a Ketman. The Communist system in the Soviet Bloc was a non functioning myth maintained by the fact that everyone supported it yet no one believed in it. Once all the Ketmans removed their mask of belief on the same day, they found no one opposing them and so no blood was spilled.
As a band, we would like to do everything possible to bring engagement back into music as art. We want listeners to become more assertive. We’d always hoped to rise to any possible level of prominence with the desire to get people actively involved in the music and ideas (not necessarily even political ones) and discourse and digging through record bins to find and preserve musical gems that with time become unknown buried under layers of dust in whatever surviving records stores there are. If to achieve this a band has to first endear itself to the passive, the unengaged, the complacent before their real success from the inside out, this is the musical version of Ketman.”
Ketman are playing tonight, Friday, September 11th at The Middle East Downstairs on an awesome bill with Mucca Pazza (fr. Chicago), Beat Circus (CD Release), Reverend Glasseye, and Larkin Grimm (Show Crush is here)