Cornershop got to number one and Talvin Singh scooped the Mercury Music Prize. Now, Glasgow’s Asian underground scene is set to change the face of Scottish music.
Words: Mark Robertson and Tim Abrahams
CALL IT COINCIDENCE OR CALL IT good timing. but over the last weekend in May there are a number of excellent live gigs on in Glasgow. Call it whatever you want. but they all feature young British Asians who take elements of Asian music and fuse them with contemporary styles.
Asian Dub Foundation. Indian Ropeman and Talvin Singh are all playing shows that weekend. highlighting the way young UK Asians are making a genuine impact on contemporary music. Asian underground is a tag bandied about in reference to many artists from Comershop to Black Star Liner. which spreads to the more traditionally- minded types like Nitin Sawhney. In essence. this term encapsulates the cross—fertilisation of Western and Eastern music forms: a fusion of contemporary dance — be it house. drum & bass. hip hop — with traditional Asian classical and folk music.
Talvin Singh is a shining star in this world. The closest you get to a role model for Asian producers and musicians. he has earned his reputation as a virtuoso tabla player. guesting on tracks for the likes of Bjork. In the mid-90s. Singh and a crew of like-minded souls started Anokha, a night at the Blue Note Club in London which rapidly became a hub of excellence for Asian underground music. Out of the club came several compilation albums and numerous musical careers. Singh’s 1999 album ().K. won the Mercury Music Prize. consolidating his place as one of British dance music‘s major innovators.
Asian Dub Foundation too are musical but also political pioneers. and were around long before the NME picked tip on them. They released their own self-funded album Facts And Fictions two years before their first full-scale commercial release. Rafi 's Revenge. in 1998. This was followed tip this year with Community Music and their aggressive political and breakbeats- meets-dub-meets-guitars musical stance has won them plaudits across the board.
Pandit G. founder member and spokesman for ADF. is sceptical about a current ‘explosion‘ in Asian music. 'l don’t think it's a particularly modern thing.‘ he insists. ‘lf you look back twenty or thirty years ago to the birth of basic
24 THE LIST 25 May—8 Jun 2000
Punjabi bhangra. you see it's not something that‘sjust happened. Back then. all Asian kids were doing was playing their music with what was around them. They wanted to play their music so they went out and
'A lot of bollocks is passed off as Asian underground. I mean, Goa trance. What's that
all about?’ Pandit G
bought a keyboard or an electric guitar. There has been British Asian music as long as there has been Asians in Britain and we just see ourselves as an extension of that.’
He is also cautious about the classification of the music into a 'scene‘. ‘You do have to be wary:
journalists can make you part of a
Talvin Singh is botA shining star and da i . 1
scene and two years later they say that scene is dead. It‘s a very varied thing as well. I mean you don‘t hear people talking about European music and bracketing ()asis with some Norwegian sitiger/songwriter. I'm into Talvin Singh and Nitin Sawhney but I don‘t see that we have too much in common. There‘s also a lot of bollocks which is passed off as Asian as well. I mean. Goa trance. What's that all ahout'."
While the big guns are emerging from lingland. Asian underground adventurers are also plying their trade in Scotland. West coast outfit The AsianCelt Sound System are currently playing support to (‘eltic fusionists Shooglenifty and elements of Glasgow‘s young Asian community are taking the initiative. One other timely example is Tiger Style.
Tiger Style are two brothers. Pops and Raj