Asian Dub Foundation
Asian Dub Foundation have been out of the limelight for the past 2 years in the UK, but they remain one of the few politically charged bands in the UK. Back with a new line up and "Enemy Of The Enemy", an album produced by dub legend Adrian Sherwood, they have been forced to look at issues on a global scale rather than focusing on UK Specific issues. In a Stop The War special Designer Magazine met up with Pandit G to talk about the coalition between the media, government and the far right.
Q: In the UK you've spent 2 years out of the limelight
to return with a new record label (Ed: Virgin, which originally distributed
ADF records in France during the early days), a new album "Enemy Of The
Enemy" and a new line up as well. How was working with one of your heroes
like Adrian Sherwood on the album especially as seen as you were bedding
in 4 new members?
A: In a way it seems new, but for us I suppose looking at it it hasn't been. The 2 rappers, Aktar and Spex, have come out of ADFED (Asian Dub Foundation Education) and they came out of a workshop we'd done between the last 5-7 years. They were Invasion but they were also working with us and it's good to see that this is kind of brought them of the streets. Rocky Singh has come from Toronto, Canada via Ilford and Cyber teaches the Punjabi drum out in West London. It's been a rejuvenation, but because we've been doing it for over 2 years it seems like a natural progression for us, although a lot of people won't have seen that in the UK.
Sherwood was overlooking the whole thing as Executive
producer and just suggesting things and of course knowing us for so long
and what our music was about. Our music has always had a very On-U-Sound
element to it as well. Our manager and tour manager used to work with On-U-Sound
system over the years and Adrian had done remix of Naxalite four or five
years ago so to work with him again was great.
Q: What were you trying to get across on this album
that wasn't on "Community Music"?
A: Obviously you don't want to make the same album twice and I think were at the stage in our career where we can afford to be flexible and open up a little bit more. I think it's having the new people in there and a reflection of some of the newer musical sounds were hearing. Stepping away a little from the jungle and hip hop and ragga that we had previously and getting that wall of sound. Obviously the album has different collaborators on it as well because we'd moved on enough to have different people in their like Sinead O'Connor and Ed O'Brien.
Q: Over the past couple of years and specifically since
September 11th I feel you have been more focused universally. Would you
A: I think it has internationalized things that were quite local, there's no doubt about that. I think probably we were going through that process anyway over the years of playing outside Britain quite a lot. The British Music industry has always been about you have to do well in Britain and then you go to America. None of us see why that should be and why you have follow that Orthodoxy and some of the most innovative music is following different routes anyway. You just have to check that Bhangra thing and Punjabi MC.
Q: What did you think of the uproar recently from MP's
about the gang warfare being linked to garage and hip-hop music?
A: That Labour Culture Tory guy Kim Howells. It's classic bloody politician isn't it. It's like make the symptom into the cause and then he doesn't take any responsibility for why these things happen. People don't just start dealing drugs because they've heard a garage tune - it's just ludicrous!!! Obviously you can't get a soundbite about what really needs to be done to tackle poverty in the ghetto. Lets be honest and re-address issues about access to resources, access to training and education, access to housing and access to jobs. No-one wants to be a drug dealer and those that think young people, in particular young black people, want to become is obviously living on another planet.
If you really want to start blaming violence on art and culture then why don't you start banning the bible because it's got varying degrees of violence in it. The same way Shakespeare has because there's too many murders in it.
Q: The Government, Media and The BNP / National Front
have always expressed the same views, but over the past 4 or 5 years this
have become even more apparent. What's your perspective on the issue?
A: The Right like Blunkett yesterday said something that I think has a direct link to the BNP getting the Halifax seat this morning. He's playing into those same fears and at the same time what is going on is they're scapegoating as a recession hits and they start dismantling the welfare state. As they start to do what big business tells them to do (we don't need an educated workforce anymore, we don't need an healthy workforce anymore - it was in the days of manufacturing industries but not in the days of service sector) - as they start to do all this it's very easy for them to launch an scapegoat over the asylum seeker, the economic migrant and therefore potential terrorists all in the same bracket and these terms have become interchangeable.
And this raises a new racism. And a new racism will affect
all communities. Not just the newer most vulnerable communities, but it
will affect established Black and Asian communities and it will affect
white society as well.
Q: Since September 11th have you seen any noticeable
difference in the way you are treated on a day to day basis?
A: Not really. Obviously you get the same stuff in the airports to the nth degree a bit more. But that kind of stuff is inevitable and I think anyone who is black and asian on planes gets that sort of stuff. But I do think that anyone from minority communities are starting to feel the pressure and particularly because of the agenda of what's seen as immigrants coming in and taking all the jobs...all the usual stuff. What my parents had to deal with when they came here - it's coming back again.
Q: Going back to the "Facts & Fiction" album there's
a song "PKNB" which is relevant to these times as it was seven years ago.
It must be upsetting to see that little had changed over this time?
A: You could say that nothing has changed from the way the powers that be operate. But you can also see at the same time that things have got better in terms that communities are defending themselves stronger and getting more and more representation. Of course it's not going to be an overnight thing. We never thought that things would just improve because a labour government came in for example.
Things can only change when people start to organize themselves.
You look at the Anti-Globalisation movement and so many different movements
going up and down the country. You'll see it if you come down to the Anti-War
march on February 15th and you think 20 years I've been marching and i've
never seen anything like this. There will be families, the old peaceniks,
the middle classes, the Muslim communities - there will be people from
every race, gender and background.
Q: Going back to what we were saying before about David
Blunkett. With his views do you think he should be allowed a platform to
A: No Platform for Blunkett - it is true that every 2 weeks he come out with something dangerous. But there's a little warning there, not just to the migrant communities or immigrant communities, he's doing a little warning to wider society - the working classes for want of a better term - and he's saying to them amongst all this that your not going to get an education, your kids aren't going to get an education, you will have to work till your 70, there won't be pensions for you, you will all have to take out private health insurance...and mingle this with it's refugees, asylum seekers and terrorists - lets blame them!!! And he will keep doing this and I just hope that people will wake up to what goes on.
And of course this has happened in France when the mainstream
took on the views of the far right and you can go down that route and go
back to the 30s. But there again you've never had such a time when so many
people from various reason on in so opposition to this as well and people
are much more educated and aware of what's gone on in the past. So there
are some good sides to it as well and I think there is a a reawakening
of at least some radicalism.
Q: As you said some good things have happened and over
the past 12 months Saptal Ram has been released from prison. How is he
adjusting to life on the outside?
A: Of course it's very hard for someone who has been wrongfully arrested. If you look at someone like Paddy Hill - there's nothing worse than being wrongfully convicted, having a conviction there still, and coming out after 16 years - you've spent all your time in prison defending yourself - how do you adjust to life on the outside?
If people do want to find out about cases like Saptal Ram and other miscarriages of justice there groups like MOJO (Miscarriages Of Justice Organization) who have branches in Scotland and in London and you'll find their listings in magazines like Red Pepper. I think we have to learn some of the victory's that have happened and while we had a terrible situation in Bradford (the entire criminalisation of an entire generation of Asians under 25), Burnley showed there were other ways even through the legal process of winning in such a circumstance. So we have to look at these lessons and then go back and look what happened to the Bradford 12 back in '81', people from the Afro-Carribean community in '58' in Notting Hill.
People like Blunkett play the best at showing these people
to be lawless when most of them are responsible with kids and married and
holding down jobs.
Q: Finally, there's bands like yourself that have always
been politically focused. Do you think the war will politicize people or
will the same people just continue as normal?
A: It's a big old leftie thing to say, but what has radicalized people most is that change from economic prosperity to recession and when that happens people get disorientated first and then they start fighting back. It's that moment of disorientation where we've got to use whatever we are as journalists or musicians to explain the situation so we don't get white kids in old mining towns joining the BNP. We provide a radical alternative to them
They all wonder why their kids are on heroin now. We bombed Afghanistan and installed a government which thinks nothing of replanting loads of Opium - no matter how bad the Taliban were they banned that stuff!!! We've got to start thinking for ourselves now rather than by swallowing the media line now.
The Stop The War Demonstration takes place in London on February 15th
"Enemy Of The Enemy" is out 3rd February
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