Asian underground surfaces

Ancient Asian and Christian spirituality lift pop music to a higher level.

Tijn Touber | March 2003 issue
In London Indian tablas and sitars combined with drum ‘n’ bass, hip-hop, ambient and funk are setting discos in motion. Little wonder when you consider how many kids must have grown up listening to the movie soundtracks and classic ragas their parents played. It might have taken them a while to integrate their roots into their music preferences, but once it happened the wave quickly spread beyond London and around the world. ‘Asian underground’ conquered New York, Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam overnight. In Britain, the empire is headed by Aki Nawaz and his hip-hop formation Fundamental. In Germany, funk is the big inspiration, as is evidenced by percussionist Ramesh Shotham and his group Madras Special. Contrary to expectations, the wave even struck New Delhi. India Today reports that Guarav Raina and Tapan Raj who – as the celebrated duo MIDIval PunditZ – stand at the forefront of an even bigger wave known as ‘Asian massive’.
But let’s go back to the beginning. In London in the mid-1990s, DJ Talvin Singh, tabla virtuoso Ustad Sultan Khan and producer Bill Laswell made the first crossover when they mixed tabla beats in with the electronic rhythms of the London dance club scene. Of course, the real story begins even earlier with such giants as tabla master Zakir Hussain, who played with drummer Buddy Rich and the Grateful Dead, not to mention sitarist Ravi Shankar, who greatly influenced bands like the Beatles. Both of them are big inspirations for Talvin Singh and a whole host of other DJ’s, tabla players, bands and producers like Osmani, SoundZ, Equal-I, Somatik, Mukul and Cleveland Watkiss.
Now that India (China may soon follow), one of the last bastions against modern Western music, has been ‘conquered’ nothing stands in the way of a great musical melting pot. But a lot of water will have to flow under the Howrah Bridge before the MIDIval PunditZ are met with the same acclaim at home as they now receive abroad. In Bombay, the Fire and Ice Club is one of the few venues that dares to play the new sound, while radio fans are dependent on a few courageous local private stations. Tapan Raj explains why: ‘It’s such a new thing, nobody knows what to do with it. It can’t be compared or related to anything else.’ The PunditZ compare it to the introduction of jazz music: ‘Jazz had to find its own way first. Once it became accepted, there was no stopping it.’
But it’s not just Indian mysticism that provides musical inspiration: Christianity, too, turns out to be fertile ground for new music. According to The Nation (Jan. 13, 2003) Christian music is the only genre that saw record sales increase over the past year. According to Rick Welke of the prominent US magazine Radio and Records religious rock is set to surpass even country-and-western in popularity. It’s a peculiar sight: boys and girls with metal bracelets, torn jeans and bleached spiky hair distributing flyers against pornography, masturbation and abortion. The last issue is the focus of Rock For Life, an organization led by Bryan Kemper.
Rock For Life blossoms during America’s many Christian rock festivals. When manager Bob Poe organized his first festivals in the early 1980s, he was hard-pressed to find even seven or eight bands to do their religious rock thing for what was then a tiny crowd. Nowadays, he easily gets 125 bands on stage, with an equal number he has to let down. Where many parents, teachers and politicians have given up trying to adjust the behaviour of wayward teenagers, Poe has been surprisingly successful. At a large festival last summer one of the visitors suffered an asthma attack. The singer stopped playing and called on all 40,000 visitors to pray for the girl to regain her breath. No one complained during the group prayer, which lasted for 45 minutes,. Bob Poe: ‘Our event isn’t a political event but a behavioural event.’
After the gigs, the kids are invited to come and talk to the band members: ‘If something’s bugging you that you want to talk about, come over after the show. We’ve been there!’, urges Kevin Murray, singer with Now Or Never. He later explains: ‘Most of them come here with a history of dope, sex or depression. Then they see a guy like me, someone who tells them he’s been there before, and that he’s overcome all that. It doesn’t matter if you’re a complete stranger, or if you think you don’t believe in God, or whatever. I will show you the way.’
Could John Lennon’s saying that a rock band can be bigger than Jesus Christ be prophetic after all?
 

Solution News Source

Asian underground surfaces

Ancient Asian and Christian spirituality lift pop music to a higher level.

Tijn Touber | March 2003 issue
In London Indian tablas and sitars combined with drum ‘n’ bass, hip-hop, ambient and funk are setting discos in motion. Little wonder when you consider how many kids must have grown up listening to the movie soundtracks and classic ragas their parents played. It might have taken them a while to integrate their roots into their music preferences, but once it happened the wave quickly spread beyond London and around the world. ‘Asian underground’ conquered New York, Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam overnight. In Britain, the empire is headed by Aki Nawaz and his hip-hop formation Fundamental. In Germany, funk is the big inspiration, as is evidenced by percussionist Ramesh Shotham and his group Madras Special. Contrary to expectations, the wave even struck New Delhi. India Today reports that Guarav Raina and Tapan Raj who – as the celebrated duo MIDIval PunditZ – stand at the forefront of an even bigger wave known as ‘Asian massive’.
But let’s go back to the beginning. In London in the mid-1990s, DJ Talvin Singh, tabla virtuoso Ustad Sultan Khan and producer Bill Laswell made the first crossover when they mixed tabla beats in with the electronic rhythms of the London dance club scene. Of course, the real story begins even earlier with such giants as tabla master Zakir Hussain, who played with drummer Buddy Rich and the Grateful Dead, not to mention sitarist Ravi Shankar, who greatly influenced bands like the Beatles. Both of them are big inspirations for Talvin Singh and a whole host of other DJ’s, tabla players, bands and producers like Osmani, SoundZ, Equal-I, Somatik, Mukul and Cleveland Watkiss.
Now that India (China may soon follow), one of the last bastions against modern Western music, has been ‘conquered’ nothing stands in the way of a great musical melting pot. But a lot of water will have to flow under the Howrah Bridge before the MIDIval PunditZ are met with the same acclaim at home as they now receive abroad. In Bombay, the Fire and Ice Club is one of the few venues that dares to play the new sound, while radio fans are dependent on a few courageous local private stations. Tapan Raj explains why: ‘It’s such a new thing, nobody knows what to do with it. It can’t be compared or related to anything else.’ The PunditZ compare it to the introduction of jazz music: ‘Jazz had to find its own way first. Once it became accepted, there was no stopping it.’
But it’s not just Indian mysticism that provides musical inspiration: Christianity, too, turns out to be fertile ground for new music. According to The Nation (Jan. 13, 2003) Christian music is the only genre that saw record sales increase over the past year. According to Rick Welke of the prominent US magazine Radio and Records religious rock is set to surpass even country-and-western in popularity. It’s a peculiar sight: boys and girls with metal bracelets, torn jeans and bleached spiky hair distributing flyers against pornography, masturbation and abortion. The last issue is the focus of Rock For Life, an organization led by Bryan Kemper.
Rock For Life blossoms during America’s many Christian rock festivals. When manager Bob Poe organized his first festivals in the early 1980s, he was hard-pressed to find even seven or eight bands to do their religious rock thing for what was then a tiny crowd. Nowadays, he easily gets 125 bands on stage, with an equal number he has to let down. Where many parents, teachers and politicians have given up trying to adjust the behaviour of wayward teenagers, Poe has been surprisingly successful. At a large festival last summer one of the visitors suffered an asthma attack. The singer stopped playing and called on all 40,000 visitors to pray for the girl to regain her breath. No one complained during the group prayer, which lasted for 45 minutes,. Bob Poe: ‘Our event isn’t a political event but a behavioural event.’
After the gigs, the kids are invited to come and talk to the band members: ‘If something’s bugging you that you want to talk about, come over after the show. We’ve been there!’, urges Kevin Murray, singer with Now Or Never. He later explains: ‘Most of them come here with a history of dope, sex or depression. Then they see a guy like me, someone who tells them he’s been there before, and that he’s overcome all that. It doesn’t matter if you’re a complete stranger, or if you think you don’t believe in God, or whatever. I will show you the way.’
Could John Lennon’s saying that a rock band can be bigger than Jesus Christ be prophetic after all?
 

Solution News Source

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