Asian Dub Foundation are 21st century MIDI warriors. Their distinctive sound is a combination of hard ragga-jungle rhythms, indo-dub basslines, searing sitar- inspired guitars and 'traditional' sounds gleaned from their parents' record collections, shot through with fast-chat conscious lyrics. 1998's album 'Rafi's Revenge' on London Records met with much critical acclaim and received a Mercury Prize nomination. By that time already considered one of Britain's most exciting live bands, this album helped to introduce them to a wider audience. ADF talk not only about racism and the experience of Asians in Britain, but are concerned with wider issues of social justice. Their outlook is informed by their continued involvement with campaigning and educational groups. Their music is also intended to encourage peoples' own creativity. They started off in 1993 at London based organisation Community Music where bassist Dr Das taught music technology. He teamed up with one of his students, rapper Deeder Zaman and civil rights worker DJ Pandit G to form a sound system to play at anti-racist gigs. The following year they recruited guitarist Chandrasonic and started moving further afield. With Sun-J joining in 1995 on live technology and 'radical movements,' the line up was complete. Their debut album 'Facts and Fictions' (Nation Records) came out in 1995 and was largely overlooked by a country obsessed with retro guitar pop. And at that time, to be 'Asian' was yet to be considered 'cool.' On the continent however, ADF were given ample opportunity to tour and develop their performance skills. Their musical and lyrical package was met with considerable enthusiasm, especially in France where their second album 'R.A.F.I.' was released by Virgin France in 1997. The following year's 'Rafi's Revenge' was in fact a re-recorded, recharged version of R.A.F.I, energised through extensive live playing.
It was Primal Scream who finally brought ADF to the attention of the British media. ADF toured the UK with them in the summer of 1997 having by now signed to London. The Primals also collaborated with ADF on the single 'Free Satpal Ram,' which has done much to draw attention to the situation of an Asian man whom they both believe is yet another recipient of British rough justice. ADF spent most of 1998 touring, consolidating their reputation for uplifting live sets and for attracting culturally mixed audiences. In Britain, Primal Scream's championing of ADF was soon vindicated. Journalists were taken aback by their energy and made inadequate comparisons to well known previous punk bands. Little did they realise, that aside from having played in front of mad French audiences, it was their own ignoring of the band that had made ADF focus in such a way. ADF performed at many major festivals in the UK and the rest of Europe as well as at Fuji Rock in Japan. A Beastie Boys support tour in the autumn introduced them to the US where they received a warm welcome, much to their own surprise.
ADF's forceful presence has helped to demolish many stereotypes of Asian musicians and by extension, Asian people. An acknowledgement of this came in the form of the BBC Asian Award for Music in December 1998. Their higher profile enabled ADF to attract funding from the London Arts Board to establish ADF Education (ADFED) to promote and practice the teaching of music and technology to young people. ADFED now functions as an independent organisation running various workshops in London. ADF did their first headlining tour of the US and Canada in the Spring of 1999 getting an excellent response, with the majority of the dates being sold out. Their album received good exposure on the independent college radio circuit, often receiving top ten placings in the airplay charts.
They have completed their third album 'Community Music', named of course after the place where they started and out of respect to their ethnically and culturally diverse 'outernational' fanbase.
Bio content from ADF
adam becker and samia ahmed interview asian dub foundation
The following interview was conducted by Exposure Magazine in December of 1998 - it remains sadly significant to this day.
ADF aren't your everyday pop stars. They're a politically conscious band that formed through community projects - and they're still heavily involved in the community. With their uncompromising mix of drum'n'bass with a twist of Asian influence it took the band a long time to gain recognition. Now with one excellent album under their belt and a great live reputation, ADF are beginning to make a big impact on the British popular music scene. And they deserve it! Exposure caught up with the band at the Community Music Studios near London Bridge. Band members Dr Das, Sun-J, Pandit G gave us their insights while Deedar and Chandrasonic drift in and out. The next generation of ADF, Das's daughter, runs around as we speak.
Exposure: You're one of only a few Asian groups that have made it into the public consciousness. Have you encountered any racism within the industry? Sun-J: We've worked twice, even three times as hard as a normal white band. If we were five white guys with guitars we would have been up there a long time ago. Dr Das: We will never be on the cover of the NME, by their own admission. They've said when there's been a black face on the cover, their circulation has dropped by several thousand. Sun-J: You can't give up at the end of the day, you've got to keep fighting.
on the Mercury Music Prize:
Sun-J: It's the classic glass ceiling. Gomez won, and Gomez were going to win anyway. Dr Das: I think we were disappointed for a few minutes. We were disappointed that Comershop didn't get it. We were rooting for them, they were rooting for us. I don't think Gomez were doing anything that was of cultural benefit to any British person, whatever their colour. Someone made a good comment the other day. If they were really Spanish, like their name suggests, do you think they would have got that far? Pandit G: Awards reinforce the ideas that record companies have, about competition between bands and different types of music. That's not the way it should be, but that's the nature of the music industry. Exposure: So really the rivalry is between the companies? Dr Das: Yeah, they just want the bands to be pissed off.
Sun-J: I don't like this whole DJ mentality. I hate it! The idea of one guy spinning two records that sound exactly the same, he's not doing anything at all except matching the beats, and the beats are exactly the same anyway. They're paid thousands of pounds and get hero status. And a lot of kids look up to these DJs. Exposure: Are we talking about people like Norman Cook and Carl Cox here? Sun-J: Yeah, all these big time DJs. A lot of kids look up to the Prodigy, and what does the Prodigy give them? 'Smack my bitch up', 'Firestarter'. That's negative. It's not doing anything is it? I would suggest that these people hurry up and die!
advice for the next generation:
Sun-J: They're up against a lot, as we all are. They should get collective and do things together. Get involved with local community centres, do something on a local level. A lot of young kids nowadays are disillusioned with a lot of things. Broaden your horizons a bit. Check out other communities locally. Check out other avenues of music. That's why your magazine's good, because it allows everyone to get in there and learn.
Interview by Adam Becker and Samia Ahmed
Photos by Adam Becker
Thanks to Lisa and Seema at Asian Action Group for all they did to get us the interview.
And, of course to the band for giving us so much of their time!
For more current news of ADF go here
Reprinted by kind permission of our friends at
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