Socialist Worker

Scaling walls of Fortress Europe

FOR MORE than a decade Asian Dub Foundation (ADF) have been making brilliant music that attacks injustice and celebrates resistance. PANDIT G from ADF talked to YURI PRASAD about their new album, Enemy of the Enemy.

Issue No. 1836

ADF have been out of the spotlight for the last few years-what have you been doing?

We've been all over the world and what we've seen influenced us enormously. We've played in the former Yugoslavia to 28,000 Bosnians and Serbs. We went to Brazil and took an idea for a track called '19 Rebellions' with us. We worked with young Brazilian musicians to create the track as it appears on the album.

The title comes from a series of prison rebellions that took place in Brazil a few years ago. That even prisoners can fight for their human rights inspired us to write about it.

Do you think that music can help people who are fighting back?

Absolutely-it's another tool we can use. While it can't substitute for struggle itself, it certainly can get publicity, or even just create a debate. Our new single, 'Fortress Europe', is an attempt to create a debate. I walk down the street-I see billboards for the Evening Standard that link terrorism, raids and asylum seekers and all the stuff pushed by the Daily Hate-Mail.

What's so terrible about people coming to this country to make themselves a bit better off? Isn't that what has happened throughout history?

The mixing of different cultures has been one of the benefits of immigration. Is that a message that ADF promote?

Yes, that's what gets lost in the argument today. The real history of Britain is a history of immigration. Many people in Britain are descended from Anglo-Saxons. Who were the Saxons? They were economic migrants from northern Europe. The history of music is a history of change and innovation that cuts across borders.

Adrian Sherwood produced our new album. Thirty years ago he fused the sound of punk with dub reggae and early hip-hop acts and created something new. That's what we want to create now-music with that punk spirit, with distortion sound effects all mixed up with tabla drums, dub and rap.

The media have devoted themselves to linking violence and drugs to various forms of urban music. Do you think that there is a connection?

It's ridiculous. How can So Solid Crew be the reason why two young girls from Birmingham get killed at a party? Artists reflect the society that's around them-they don't create it.

But it's also a question of marketing. Record companies think that the more controversial you are the better. We had exactly the same debate with hip-hop acts in the 1980s. Look at what has happened with Eminem. He used to be attacked for being mysogynistic and homophobic, as well as talking about drugs and guns. Now they give him awards. He's been rehabilitated-it's the American Dream repackaged. What people forget is that rap started as a means of talking about your community. It's no accident that rappers like Gil Scott Heron and the Last Poets came at the same time as the Black Panthers.

The media are scared of talking about the real causes of drug use and crime. If you've got no opportunities and you can't afford to live, you are surrounded by drugs. It's easier for the media to talk about the symptoms rather than the cause.

People say that ADF is a political band while most mainstream music is apolitical. Do you think the mainstream will get more radical?

Music mirrors our society, so it is going to have a political content. Even Pop Idol is political. But so many people are talking politics at the moment, whether it's about the war, immigration or the firefighters. New music is coming through. It's in fanzines, it's on the internet, and it's unstoppable.

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Sat 1 Feb 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1836
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