Just six months after the last Asian Dub Foundation studio album, Enemy Of The Enemy, which featured contributions from Sinead O’Connor and Radiohead, comes this long overdue live album, accompanied by the inevitable DVD. Long overdue because a band like ADF only really come alive on stage; everything else, however powerful in its own right, can only be a pale imitation of the real thing. That, in turn, is because ADF’s music, like the band’s upfront politics, remains an integral part of the community of resistance from which they sprang some 10 years ago.
Originally formed by music teacher Dr Das, rapper Deeder Zaman and civil rights worker DJ Pandit G as a sound system to play at anti-racist gigs, the band has grown over the years, playing to ever-growing, racially mixed audiences and touring with the likes of Primal Scream and The Beastie Boys. This album, which acts as a kind of retrospective, as well as capturing the crew in full cry, demonstrates that their radical edge remains as sharp as ever.
Assatta Dub is typical of ADF’s rich cultural stew, mixing agit-prop, sampled speeches, a subterranean dub groove and Indian tablas and sitar. Opening cut Cyberabad is even better, a thunderous, mostly instrumental, track that combines Eastern motifs with the rhythms of the inner city.
The tracks on this CD are drawn from all four ADF albums and what they amount to is a new folk music for the 21st century, speaking to, and of, the experience of young British Asians, or, indeed, anyone who feels excluded from the New Labour “project”.
This album, and ADF’s musical approach, is not just about sloganeering. This is music for the feet, as well as the head and heart; songs that make you dance as well as think. Ragga rhythms, solid-as-a-rock dub basslines, sitar-like guitars and folky samples make for a cross between the world dance ethos of Loop Guru and Transglobal Underground and the more agit-prop approach of Fun>da>mental.
It isn’t always to easy to make out the words, such is the urgent, shouty nature of the vocals, but you can usually get the gist, especially on the single Free Satpal Ram, which draws attention to one of the many miscarriages of justice you never usually hear about.
Of course this album is no substitute for the genuine ADF article, but it’s close. If nothing else it should encourage countless more people to seek out this extraordinary, and all too unique, band in the flesh. Listen and be converted.