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Asian Dub Foundation: it’s gonna be wild

Adelaide Festival

With a beatboxing flautist in their multicultural line-up and a wild sound that traverses everything from raga to punk rock, British group Asian Dub Foundation promise to close this year’s WOMADelaide with a live show that is “very special and very loud”.

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While the group has played at Womad festivals in other parts of the world in their 20-year history, this will be their first time at Botanic Park.

They have a reputation for passionate, explosive live performance, and founding guitarist Steve Savale tells InDaily festival-goers will be compelled to dance.

“They don’t have any choice – it’s pretty sonically compulsory.”

The group’s bio describes them as having “a wild sound where ragga meets sitar, dub meets bhangra and punk rock meets hip-hop”.

Savale tells InDaily the group originally formed in the mid-1990s as an alliance of post-punk musicians who were into ragga – “rebellious but experimental music” – and younger-generation musos who liked jungle drum and bass. “So it was a mix of ragga with jungle and a punk attitude.”

Over the years, Asian Dub Foundation has collaborated with artists such as Radiohead, Sinead O’Connor and Iggy Pop, and toured to places including India, Cuba, Morocco and Brazil’s favelas (slums). They also created a live score for French director Mathieu Kassovitz’s cult film La Haine (performed at David Bowie’s London Meltdown Festival) and, more recently, for Star Wars director George Lucas’s 1971 sci-fi movie THX 1138.

Savale says a companion song to the La Haine soundtrack, which he describes as “primal but primal futurism”, will likely be on the WOMADelaide set list.

“It’s pretty intense. It’s been around for a long time but it still does something pretty crazy … it’s very powerful and very concrete, just like the film.”

Festival-goers can also expect to hear tracks from the band’s latest album, More Signal More Noise, as well as highlights from throughout their career – including “Fortress Europe” from the 2003 release Enemy of the Enemy.

Although Savale bristles slightly at their music being described as political, Asian Dub Foundation is known for raging against injustice: “1000 Mirrors”, recorded with O’Connor, is about domestic violence, while “Fortress Europe” (view video clip here) has been described as a stinging attack on European immigration policy.

“We’ve never stopped playing it – we play it every time,” Savale says of “Fortress Europe”.

“It was actually a science-fiction song. I wrote the lyrics based on a short film I saw in France set 20 years into the future but unfortunately it’s one of those things that has been borne out by events.”

He says the essence of Asian Dub Foundation’s music has always remained the same, even though the line-up has varied. For the past four years, the band has comprised Savale, original members Dr Das (bass) and Rocky Singh (drums) – both of whom rejoined – Jamaican singer Ghetto Priest, and newer members Aktarvata and Nathan “Flutebox” Lee.

Lee gets his nickname from the fact that he is both a flautist and beatboxer, and Savale says he has considerably enhanced the group’s sound.

“He’s the Jimi Hendrix of the flute.

“He turns that music into something completely new – he can make it sound like a hurricane, he can make it sound like a computer overloading … he’s come up with something that has changed the instrument. It’s fantastic.

“Asian Dub Foundation is in a really happy place musically at the moment.”

Asian Dub Foundation will play on stage one in Botanic Park at 9.45pm on Monday, March 14. WOMADelaide runs from March 11-14.

Explosive live performance: Asian Dub Foundation. Photo: Umberto Lopez


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