Transglobal Underground. That’s “world music”, innit? Possibly, but the Underground is, first and foremost, an accomplished, professional and highly talented band. They’ve been around for ages, it is true. Natacha Atlas no longer fronts them; this is also true. But when you get a performance like tonight’s, as the warm-up act, you’d be hard pushed to complain.
As one of the original world music fusion bands, the Underground have produced plenty of material – through groundbreaking Nation Records – to keep ageing hippies and fusion fanatics happy the world over, from anthemic Temple Head onwards. It is only really when you see them live, however, that the true potential of their more rythmic tracks is realised.
The Engine is a case in point – new initiates and old fans alike were caught up in a performance that was simply mesmerising. Hand-held drums supplemented not one but two drum kits, plus tabla, a sitar, bass, a bewildering assortment of vocalists and an array of electronic instruments. It clearly has its rhythmic roots deep in Africa, but the vocals are of a Carribbean flavour and the sitar, played by a willowy lady centre stage, is if nothing else icing on a delicious cake.
Like so many bands of their ‘genre’, the Underground seem destined not to be able to break out of the perceived stigma of being a world music fusion band, the kind of collective which is consistently overlooked by popular Western culture and remains marginalised, at least in the UK, for no better reason than their ‘differentness’. It is something that should be celebrated rather than ignored and, appreciate their music or not, the Underground go on celebrating like they’ve just formed. Electric.