Asian Dub Foundation

Asian Dub Foundation
Asian Dub Foundation

Asian Dub Foundation
Background information
Origin London, England
Genres Rapcore, hardcore punk, dub, breakcore, ragga, dancehall, bhangra
Years active 1993–present
Labels Slash, Virgin, FFRR, EMI, Cooking Vinyl
Steve Chandra Savale (aka Chandrasonic)
Sanjay Gulabbhai Tailor (aka Sun-J)
John Pandit (aka Pandit G)
Prithpal Rajput (aka Cyber)
Martin Savale
Al Rumjen
Aktar Ahmed
Past members
Deeder Zaman (aka Master D)
Rocky Singh
Dr Das
Ghetto Priest
Lord Kimo
MC Spex
Asian Dub Foundation performing live in Berlin, Germany in November 2008

Asian Dub Foundation are a British electronica band that plays a mix of rapcore, dub, dancehall and ragga, also using rock instruments, acknowledging a punk influence. Their distinctive sound also combines indo-dub basslines, searing sitar-inspired guitars and ‘traditional’ sounds, shot through with fast-chat conscious lyrics.



The band formed in 1993 as an outgrowth of the documentary Identical Beat, a film shot at London's Farringdon Community Music House, the site of a series of summer workshops designed to teach South Asian children the essentials of music technology. In charge of the workshops were tutor Aniruddha Das and youth worker John Pandit, also a noted DJ; with one of their students, a 14-year-old Bengali rapper named Deeder Zaman, they soon formed a sound system which they called the Asian Dub Foundation.

Asian Dub Foundation is better described as a group that arose from a community rap organisation. The different forms of music include toasting, dub, funky guitars and many other African instrumentals. One of their most influential tracks is named Strong Culture which gives the listener an idea of the Asian culture.[1] "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".[2]

After each adopted an alias — bassist/tabla player Das became Dr Das, Pandit became Pandit G, and Zaman became Master D — they gradually evolved into a working band with the 1994 addition of former Higher Intelligence Agency and Atom Spies guitarist Steve Chandra Savale, an innovative performer known for tuning his strings to one note (like a sitar), turning up the distortion unit and playing his instrument with a knife, earning him the nickname "Chandrasonic." Emerging in the midst of considerable anti-Asian violence throughout Britain, the Foundation's early demos landed them a contract with Nation Records, and they recorded their debut EP Conscious in 1994. Channeling influences ranging from punk to ambient music to Bengali folk songs, Asian Dub Foundation quickly gained a strong fanbase not only among clubgoers but also among the anti-fascist movement, who applauded the group's vocal stand against racism.

Sanjay Gulabhai Tailor, Aka Sun-J, joined the band as live midi/programmer and DJ soon after. This completed the full live line-up of the band. After earning a reputation as formidable live performers, the band — which now included dancer Bubble-E — won widespread acclaim for the 1995 single "Rebel Warrior". Their second album Rafi's Revenge was nominated for a Mercury Prize combining a unique combination of punk energy with a jungle/reggae core. The single, 'Naxalite' was an ode to the militant Naxalite movement in India. Tours to the United States with the Beastie Boys and Japan followed to wide acclaim.[citation needed] Their following album, Community Music, developed their sound further and received a coveted 10/10 review in NME.[3]

Deeder Zaman left the band after playing his last concert on New Year's Eve 2000, and the band expanded to include Pritphal Rajput (dhol, tabla), Rocky Singh (drums), MC Spex (vocals) and Akhtarvator (vocals), the latter recruited from the band's ongoing education project ADFED. The new line-up played a few one off gigs mostly at festivals over the summer of 2000 with their first full tour taking place in Brazil in 2001 where they visited various music projects especially "Afro-Reggae" in Rio, who are the subject of the recent film "Favela Rising".[citation needed]

In 2002, Pandit G was awarded the MBE for "services to the music industry" in relation to his work with Community Music. He declined the award, however, stating:[4]

I personally don't think it's appropriate. I've never supported the honours system. If you want to acknowledge projects like CM, the work that these organisations do, then fund them. There's no point in giving an individual an accolade to bring people into the establishment; [it] won't actually help the organisations!

"If you want to acknowledge the work of these organisations, prioritise funding so they can grow and expand and do the work that they do (in) creating new music, giving people the opportunities to make music, develop new musicians and create pathways where they can go out and establish themselves in the music industry.

The band pursued other avenues performing a live rescore to the film La Haine in 2001, and continued performing it around the world for the next five years. They developed this approach in 2004 with the film The Battle of Algiers, first performing the piece at the Brighton dome on the same day that photographs of torture in Abu Ghraib were released.

In 2003, they released Enemy of the Enemy which became their best-selling album and contained the track "Fortress Europe," a stinging attack on European immigration policy along with "1000 Mirrors" a collaboration with Sinéad O'Connor about a woman serving life for killing an abusive husband. In 2003, they played their biggest gig in front of 100,000 people at Larzac in France at a celebration of José Bové, a radical campaigning farmer. For 2005's Tank, they were joined by On-U Sound collaborator Ghetto Priest on vocals.

In 2005, they won "Best Underground" at the UK Asian Music Awards.[5]

Bassist Dr Das announced his intention to retire in May 2006 to resume teaching and produce his own music. He was replaced by Martin Savale, aka Babu Stormz, who also plays bass with British-Asian electro/grunge/hip-hop band Swami.

In September 2006, the dub/punk opera "Gaddafi: A Living Myth", with music by Asian Dub Foundation, opened at the London Coliseum. In Spring 2007, Asian Dub Foundation announced the release of a best of compilation Timefreeze 1995-2007 which includes a bonus disc of rare remixes and live tracks, featuring Chuck D, the lead rapper of American hip hop group, Public Enemy. The album also features a new track recorded with former vocalist Deeder Zaman. In May 2007 Asian Dub Foundation performed a radio session and interview on the Bobby and Nihal show on BBC Radio 1 where they performed three new tracks: "Climb On", "Superpower" and "S.O.C.A.". In June 2007, they were the only Western act to perform at the Festival of Gnawa music in Essaouira, Morocco playing to a crowd of 60,000 people and collaborating with traditional Gnawa musicians.[citation needed]

Between 2004 and 2007, when Aktarv8r was not a member of the group, he played live on stage with the London band Oojami who perform Middle Eastern belly dance music. On the album "Boom Shinga Ling" released late in 2006, Aktarv8r plays on a couple of songs and is credited on the album under his own name Aktar Ahmed.

In August 2007, Asian Dub Foundation started playing with two new vocalists, Al Rumjen (previously with King Prawn) and Aktarv8r returned after MC Spex was asked to leave the band. In November and December 2007, Asian Dub Foundation recorded a new album, Punkara, with The Go! Team producer, Gareth Parton. It was released in spring 2008 and followed by an extensive tour of Europe and Japan.

In 2009, Asian Dub Foundation contributed to the Indigenous Resistance project after having met up with the Atenco resistance movement in Mexico. Asian Dub Foundation are at present working on their new album provisionally entitled "A New London Eye" which will feature Ministry of Dhol, Nathan "Flutebox" Lee, Chi 2 and Skrein.


The 1995 song, Rebel Warrior, was inspired by the 1920s poem, "Bidrohi" by Bengali poet, Kazi Nazrul Islam, an advocate for Indian independence. The song discusses the racial violence and inequality that the group state still plagues their British communities. Asian Dub Foundation have used their music in conjunction with education and social work for youth in the East End of London, as well as other British anti-racism campaigns.[6][original research?]

Like other groups in their genre such as Hustlers HC and Fun-Da-Mental, Asian Dub Foundation fuse South Asian instrumentation and lyrics with the dominantly conceived black music genre of rap. Their music is able to signify a disruption in the racial/ethnic boundaries of hip hop. In their song, "Strong Culture", they assert their authenticity as legitimate Asian hip-hop artists, contrary to other popular claims. The line from the song, "I'm not a Black man / This time it's an Asian." likens back to when Asians were considered "Black" by some in the United Kingdom (UK) and often were part of that musical scene as Asian music had not fully emerged yet.[1] Their lyrics call for radical political harmony and they use their music as an organizing tool for cultural politics, endorsing righteousness, social change, and an end to what they perceive as oppression in the UK.[6] They also pursue the issue of the politicisation of the category "Asian," asserting the legitimacy and authenticity of having an Asian identity in the hip-hop world. They redefine the "Asian" category by reconnecting it with an anti-colonial history, as well a current, existing anti-racist struggle.[1]

They challenge the argument that Asians are passive onlookers in popular culture who are hardly involved in the music industry. Their music functions to bridge the black influence with their own Asian style, using such lyrics as "I grab the mic to commence with the mic check. Supply rhymes, man you never heard yet, you've never thought an Asian could do this."[1] Reckoning a traditional hip-hop MC style with their own Asian influence and simultaneously mixing in various other musical styles, thus disbanding the polarisation of the racial terms and addressing the "ongoing racialised violence and inequality evident in everyday experience in their neighbourhood".[6]



Asian Dub Foundation

Dr. Das

  • Emergency Basslines (2006)
  • Keep the Grime On (2007)

Deeder Zaman

  • Minority Large (2008) (only released in Japan)

Ghetto Priest

  • Vulture Culture
  • Beyond Flesh


  • 1997 "Naxalite"
  • 1998 "Free Satpal Ram" UK #56
  • 1998 "Buzzin'" UK #31
  • 1998 "Black White" UK #52
  • 2000 "Real Great Britain" UK #41
  • 2000 "New Way, New Life" UK #49
  • 2003 "Fortress Europe" UK #57
  • 2003 "1000 Mirrors" (feat. Sinéad O'Connor)[7]
  • 2011 "A History of Now"


  • Asian Dub Foundation Live (DVD) (2003)


Asian Dub Foundation's music has been featured in several video game titles; "Flyover" in Burnout Revenge, "Rise To The Challenge" in FIFA Football 2004 and Test Drive Unlimited, "Fortress Europe" in Need for Speed: Underground and "Burning Fence" in Need for Speed: Undercover.

The song "Rebel Warrior" is featured in the film, The Fourth World War. The song plays during a scene about the 1996-1997 general strike in South Korea. They also have a part in the soundtrack for the film Vexille.


  1. ^ a b c d Sharma, Samjay; Hutnyk, John; Sharma, Ashwani (1996-11-01). Dis-orienting Rhythms: Politics of the New Asian Dance Music. London: Zed Books Ltd. pp. 32–57 (Noisy Asians or 'Asian Noise'?). ISBN 978-1856494694. 
  2. ^ "Asian Dub Foundation". Asian Dub Foundation. Retrieved 2008-06-03. [dead link]
  3. ^ "NME Reviews: Community Music". NME. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  4. ^ "NME News: Pandit G Turns Down MBE". NME. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  5. ^ "Artists unite to celebrate British Asian Music". Retrieved 24 August 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c Hutnyk, John (2000-05-01). "Culture Move: On Asian Dub Foundation". Ghadar (India: The Forum of Indian Leftists) 4 (1). Retrieved 2008-06-03. 
  7. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 31. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

External links

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  • Asian Dub Foundation — [Asian Dub Foundation] a British pop group, formed in 1994, who mix Asian music with ↑jungle, ↑dub and other styles. Their albums include Facts and Fictions (1995), Rafi’s Revenge (1998) and Enemy of the Enemy (2003) …   Useful english dictionary

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