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Representation in Rock Bands: A Look Into Sum 41’s Dave Baksh

Dave Baksh
3 min read

Dave Baksh was one of the earliest North American musical representations for South Asians from the late 90s. He is most notably known as being the lead guitarist for the Canadian rock band Sum 41. His musical influences were heavily influenced by bands like Genesis, Foreigner, Led Zeppelin, Rage Against The Machine, early Iron Maiden and more.

Baksh started his musical journey by being a part of bands like Embodiment, 747 and others before he joined Sum 41. The first years of his musical journey were grueling. The band would often be spat on during their live performances, called racial slurs and even splashed with water. His realistic expectation of a career at the time was fixing guitars for a living. He later joined his high school friend Deryck Whibley in the band Sum 41 in the mid to late 90s. Fun Fact: Deryck and Dave met on the first day of high school and got kicked out of class for talking too much about music.

The song “Still Waiting” was the first song I had ever heard by the group Sum 41. Something about hearing the opening riff for the first time as a teen with the lyrics called out to me: “So am I still waiting, For this world to stop hating?” While digging through their live recordings on YouTube, I found out that Dave Baksh was South Asian.

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Seeing someone with a South Asian background shred guitar solos on stage for a living lit a fire inside. This made me want to play music even more. I was lucky enough to have a music teacher in middle school at the time named Mr. D who encouraged my passions. He introduced me to bands Guns and Roses, Ozzy Osbourne, Cream, Metallica, Paramore, The Killers and My Chemical Romance. Check out a little medley I created of some of my favorite tracks.

Baksh had a 9-year hiatus from the band Sum 41 from the years 2006 to 2015. He explored with a couple of different groups such as Organ Thieves, Black Cat Attack and Brown Brigade. The ultimate reason for the hiatus was that record companies wanted to push a certain sound and direction. Baksh wanted to play more metal as opposed to punk rock at that time.

Brown Brigade initially started as a side project with Baksh’s cousin Vaughn Lal. It became a full band with more members during his hiatus. What made Brown Brigade so special was Baksh was able to play in a band that fused some of his biggest influences growing up. These encompassed soca, calypso, funk, reggae, heavy metal and more. He even showcased his lead vocal abilities on tracks the band produced.

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Baksh’s journey is so captivating because he started in the music industry pre-social media. He grew up during a time where a band got together, played around town and built an audience through a local following. A record company would come along, sign a deal, make a record, and it would be left to the masses.

On the flip side, social media allows diverse content creators to reach audiences with a Do-It-Yourself approach. This allows for more creative freedom as anyone from around the world can create content. Baksh has seen it all from enduring the waves of the music industry. From lower CD sales, the height of Napster, downloading music, the rise of music videos and the current generation of streaming music.

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Baksh’s music will always have a special place in my heart. This was the first time I had ever seen musical representation. I loved learning that the first guitar riff Baksh ever learned was from the song “Caught In A Mosh” by the thrash metal band Anthrax. He used tabs and mostly learned music by ear after that. Another fun piece of Sum 41 trivia I learned along my research journey was the meaning behind his nickname “Brown Sound.” The words “Brown Sound” referred to the legendary Eddie Van Halen’s warm rich perfect guitar tone using specific Marshall amplifiers.

I’m glad Dave Baksh chose playing guitar over playing rugby in his youth. By studying the greats through his uncles and cousins and practicing guitar in basements, he became an iconic guitarist.

Photo by ChrisJamesRyanPhotography via Shutterstock.com

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