ASIAN DUB FOUNDATION
Two years ago Cornershop's When I Was Born for the 7th Time reminded us here in the States that Britpop could encompass more than sulky white boys in suede jackets. Now Asian Dub Foundation, a quintet of Anglo-Indian rabble-rousers, has crossed the pond with its first major-label release, the high-powered Rafi's Revenge (Slash/London), and its "Asian jungle punk"--an overtly political mix of dub, hard rock, and traditional Indian melody--smashes even more musical and cultural barriers. The group formed in 1993 when Deeder Zaman, a 15-year-old MC, approached bass and tabla player Aniruddha Das, who was teaching a workshop in music technology at the Community Music education center near London; what began as a Jamaican-style sound system evolved into a full band with the addition of guitarist Chandrasonic, who sometimes tuned all his strings to the same note to approximate the tonality of a sitar. Together they draw on a breadth of pop, ethnic, and electronic influences--Chandrasonic grew up listening to Indian classical music, dub, techno, and ambient, and Das numbers among his bass-playing heroes Michael Henderson, Billy Cox, Jah Wobble, and Paul McCartney--but their furious breakbeats, sinuous guitar lines, and aggressive sloganeering deliver a sonic punch to rival the Beastie Boys' or Rage Against the Machine's. Like Rage, ADF preaches revolution through the bullhorn of a billion-dollar entertainment conglomerate, but before signing with the Polygram subsidiary the group was often ignored by English retailers who pigeonholed it as Indian. Now it faces a more complex challenge: reaching across racial lines without succumbing to the cultural colonialism that shrink-wraps Asian exotica for the Western shopping mall. "Crossover--what does it mean?" asks Chandrasonic in one on-line interview. "Is it the George Harrison thing again, which we don't want, or is it going to push people's perceptions of different communities?" One thing's for sure: with dance-music technology creeping from Tokyo to London to New York to New Delhi, the community ADF identifies as the "digital underclass" will one day circle the globe as completely as Sony or Polygram. Tuesday, 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160. J.R. JONES
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.