AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #19 : ASIAN DUB FOUNDATION

asian-dub-foundation
I really am chuffed to bits that so many folk are wanting to contribute to this series and after The Robster’s ingenious and entertaining piece on Super Furry Animals the other day it’s now the turn of a new guest to do something just as ingenious and entertaining.  So here is Tim Badger, a good friend and travelling companion of S-WC:-

Just two guys messing around (An Imaginary Compilation of sorts)

The other day S-WC and myself were in a car driving up the M5 on our way to Worcester to watch some cricket. Do not judge us on this, we are getting on a bit.

Anyway, S-WC was surfing the net in the car and he started talking about the Imaginary Compilation Series on T(n) VV. For the next twenty minutes or so we discussed bands that we would like to see in the series. There were so many, too many to write about if we are all honest. So he said, let’s do one by random. He plugged my iPod into the car and said – which ever band plays the 11th track you will produce an imaginary compilation on. No exceptions. We then discovered one exception – if that band doesn’t have ten commercially available tracks. I agreed on the basis that he did the second 11th track if that makes sense – he agreed.

So we sat in the car driving a bit slower towards our destination, track ten came on, it was Karma Police (doing an Imaginary compilation for Radiohead, would for me take forever). I realised then that I was nervous, genuinely concerned – what if it was Hall & Oates ( I have one song by them on my iPod (Maneater since you ask), again don’t judge me)? What if was Radiohead again? The Smiths? Ministry?….

It was, if you haven’t guessed by scrolling down the page already…Asian Dub Foundation. The 11th song was as it happens one of my favourites by them Buzzing. But this was a band that I hadn’t really listened to for about ten years since I saw them live down at the Eden Sessions in Cornwall.

So – here goes, ten songs by Asian Dub Foundation….

According to Wikipedia Asian Dub Foundation are an English electronica band that plays a mix of rapcore (nope me neither), dub, dancehall and ragga, also using rock instruments, acknowledging a punk influence. Their distinctive sound also combines indo dub basslines, searing sitar inspired guitars and traditional sounds, shot through with fast chat conscious lyrics.

In the late 90s and early 00’s Asian Dub Foundation released two wonderful records, these being (Mercury Music Award Nominated) Rafis Revenge and the seminal Community Music;  the latter is described by some as the most important record ever released. It isn’t quite that, but it is certainly utterly wonderful. Both are angry, overflowing with polemic lyrics and a strong sense of trying to right the wrongs of society. These two records are their best – and obviously make up the bulk of this compilation. If you need an introduction to them, start with those two records. It was these two records that took them from being whispered about underground urbanistas to overground in your face forces to be reckoned with.

Anyway enough chitter chatter, heres the tunes.

Side One

1.Taa Deem : from Community Music

Perhaps the not obvious album opener. I mean technically its not even their song – this is a remix of the Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan track – but they pretty much turn it into a cover version. It is a five minute blend of bhangra, breakbeats and punky guitars. After a couple of listens you will try and sing along to it. In Bengali.

2. Oil : from Tank

Oil is another obvious single, the lyrics of which lash out at (I’m guessing here) George W Bush, “petro-junkies” and “SUVs with warheads”. ‘Oil’ also refers back to Michael Moore’s use of interviews with US tank soldiers in Iraq in his film Fahrenheit 9/11, in which the the soldiers admitted they played death metal as they drove their war machines into battle. Lyrically this song is wonderful, its angry and completely unapologetic about it, and whilst I cringe a little as I quote the most memorable lyric ‘No Iraqi, ever called me Paki’, you can’t help but agree with everything they say.

3. Rebel Warriors : from Community Music

Obviously you all know that this song was inspired the Bengali poem Bidrohi by Kazi Nazrul – what Asian Dub Foundation did was roughly translate the song from Bengali and used the song to support a modern take on Nazrul’s original stance. The poem was chosen in part because of its significance to the Indian independence movement and because of its place in Indian traditional culture and its powerful and unifying lyrics. Its a bit like what Oasis did with the Slovakian protest poem ‘Wonderwall’.

4 Real Great Britain :  from Community Music

One of their more recognisable tunes. I love the way that the breakbeats in this blend in with the guitars making one heck of an angry noise, but then, some trumpets join in and it becomes a pop record. Albeit a pop record all about the shifting sands of British multiculture.

5. Naxalite : from Rafis Revenge

Back in 1997 when ADF are beginning to make some inroads into the mainstream, they needed a radio friendly record – but instead of actually releasing one (which they had in the cupboard with ‘Buzzing’) they decided to release this instead, a massive shout out to the 1960s peasant uprising in West Bengal. The radios didn’t play it, well not much anyway. It didn’t chart. The band didn’t care.

Side Two

1. Flyover :  from Tank

A lot of ADF’s roots have been in jungle and drum n bass, and they I think got lost in the Roni Size inspired bandwagon that started rolling in 1995 – the genre runs through each of their albums, ‘Flyover’ is for me the best exponent of this – a riot of ragga vocals and pumping drums which is almost as incendiary on the stereo as it is live.

2. Blowback : from Enemy of the Enemy

‘Enemy of the Enemy’ was the album that was supposed to make ADF household names, it never happened, largely because the band refused to mellow in order to win popularity. ‘Blowback’ starts with an Afghani sample and I think its one of the most important tunes on this album. However for most the band seem to be preoccupied with the events of a few years earlier in the United States – “Blowback is the CIA term for the unintended consequences of secret operations. Or when the Monsters you’ve created, like Saddam, no longer serve your interests and start to bite you. September 11th was the biggest blowback of them all…”. The general audience reaction was ‘Yeah, we know, can we have less politics now…’.

3. Change A Gonna Come : from 12” single of same name

The day after the iPod chose ADF for me, S-WC turned up at my house with a 12” record under his arm. He said – you have to include this – so here it is. ‘Change..’ was I think the bands first single although I may be wrong. It takes the bands punk funk bhangra reggae fusion and turns it upside down. Again your ear is drawn to the inevitable political message but on this occasion you can focus on the music as well.

4. New Way New Life : from Community Music

This song celebrates the achievements of Asian Communities and is I think the song that sums up ‘Community Music’ the best. It underlines the magnificent sound of ADF, at their prime, the sound of them winning their power struggle. The sound of that dhol battering away oppression. Considering that, still, some fifteen years on bigotry and hatred is rife in society, and for some the Asian population are considered the enemy, this is a massively important statement.

5. Buzzing : from Rafi’s Revenge

Easily their best record.

This is not a lie, at 3.27am this morning, I woke up and wondered if I still had the Dylan Rhymes remix of this track. So I got up and wandered downstairs to the vinyl cupboard. I couldn’t find it, so make do with the album version. Mrs Badger arrived about nine minutes later and said ‘Tim, what the fuck you doing?’ – Mixtape was my answer, she sighed and went back to bed.

That last sentence perhaps sums up the pain it has taken to do this, and this from a band that I like, but don’t love, most of the imaginary compilations have been on bands that the author adores. It is probably harder to do it on a band you don’t understand or listen to everyday.

I presented S-WC with the ten tracks about five minutes ago, he smiled, and said he would have included nine of these – I think I know which track he would have left off, but that is faint praise from a notoriously grumpy bastard.

I’d also like to apologise, I’m not a writer, I’ve definitely waffled and I have definitely borrowed a couple of sentences from Wikipedia. But I hope you enjoyed this and the music.

mp3 : Asian Dub Foundation – Ta Deem
mp3 : Asian Dub Foundation – Oil
mp3 : Asian Dub Foundation – Rebel Warriors
mp3 : Asian Dub Foundation – Real Great Britain
mp3 : Asian Dub Foundation – Naxalite
mp3 : Asian Dub Foundation – Flyover
mp3 : Asian Dub Foundation – Blowback
mp3 : Asian Dub Foundation – Change A Gonna Come
mp3 : Asian Dub Foundation – New Way New Life
mp3 : Asian Dub Foundation – Buzzing

I would also, finally say, please try this, stick your iPod on, wait for the 11th track (it has to be 11 – I don’t know why ask S-WC) and then produce a mixtape on that band –whoever they are. Oh and S-WC got a real tricky one on the journey home, he’ll tell you more I’m sure.

Tim Badger

5 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #19 : ASIAN DUB FOUNDATION

  1. A band I know a little about, but nowhere near as much as I should. I’ll be listening to these tracks later tonight. As for your apology – you don’t have to be a writer to write really entertaining stuff. I loved this, especially: “Mrs Badger arrived about nine minutes later and said ‘Tim, what the fuck you doing?’ – Mixtape was my answer, she sighed and went back to bed.” If I had made my coffee yet, it probably would have been spat across the screen at that moment…

    Looking forward to S-WC’s offering. That’ll be another great read!

  2. For someoone who “is not a writer” that was an extremely interesting and highly amusing read

  3. Hear Hear.

    And Tim is kidding himself on that he’s not a writer…..I’d love to have been able to listen in to the conversations he had with S-WC on that car journey during the countdown to track 11.

    There’s another new contributor due to feature next week and as far as I’m concerned the more the merrier.

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