We were having a bit of a problem with fascists back in ’93. The British National Party (BNP), your run-of-the-mill neo-nazi ass hats had just had some local electoral success in London and the spectre of overt racism was back to haunt the streets of our proud nation’s capitol*. A certain be-quiffed ex lead singer of a popular Manchester band had released a couple of tracks which could be interpreted in a less than liberal manner** and the weekly music press, still fondly reminiscing about the Rock Against Racism gigs in the 70’s, declared we had a crisis on our hands.
It’s okay though, everyone knew that the secret to defeating and dismantling fascism for ever and consigning it to the cess pool of history was to … dance around a bit whilst waving your hands in the air. Shame they hadn’t thought of that 55 years earlier.
Co-founded by the drummer of Southern Death Cult, Haq Nawaz Qureshi, Nation Records was the sort of enterprise that gave racists serious migraines. The Nation Records credo of ‘Uncompromising – Creative – Innovative’ was bang on the money, they existed solely to mix everything up and have a good time. You want a dance act formed by a Greek-Albanian, an anglo-Indian, a Semitic-Belgian belly dancing singer, a Ghanaian rapper and, umm, Count Dubula^? of course you do, everyone does. You want them to belt out a number of dancefloor bangers and more contemplative numbers based on a widescale sampling of rhythms and flavours from across the world? damn straight you do. Let’s call the music worldbeat and welcome Trans Global Underground into the house.
Until a little detour onto Discogs yesterday, the only Trans Global Underground (TGU) I owned was the 12″ single Shimmer. It’s a real humdinger too – it’s rap, it’s dance and remarkably it sounds almost completely undated 24 years later. I love the Indian-sounding female vocal samples they weave in and out of the mix. I get a nostalgic kick from records that tell me what each track’s BPM is on the sleeve, 119 in fact on the best mix here ‘Shimmer (Transit Power)’ – that requires some prettty speedy footwork I can tell you.
The various mixes concentrate on different facets of the track, the most trance like being the ‘Global Trobal’ mix. The other B-side ‘This Is The Army of Forgotten Souls’^* is a very different prospect, hoiking us away to a Bollywood matinée, albeit a bracing one imbued with some great wah-wah guitaring.
In the Nation Records stable there was much moonlighting and cross-pollination and so Loop Guru, Salman Gita and Jamuud, worked with a whole host of other collaborators, including most of Trans Global Underground at various times. Their music was, you’ll be surprised to hear, yet another fusion of East and West albeit with a tad more gamelan stirred into the pot. I own Paradigm Shuffle^^ which is a great dance track – not that they’ve put the BPM count on for us to marvel at, I’m sorry to report.
Here’s a video of Paradigm Shuffle, with Rat Scabies from the Damned playing drums with them live in the Czech Republic, talk about a melting pot!
The B-side ‘Hope’ with Natacha Atlas on vocals, is a great meditative track too with some plaintive violin and is best experienced in the ‘The Original Sin’ mix. The B-side also features the gentler, less percussive ‘Bird Of Paradise’ mix of the title track too, which is really rather nice.
Both the 12″s come in the regulation Nation Records house-style sleeve with nifty cut-out bits on the back of them and they got played a lot by my friends and I and danced to at clubs like Mega Dog and Whirl-Y-Gig.
So there you have it, the neo-nazis never stood a chance as they were thoroughly trounced by the global sweatbox rhythms of Shimmer and Paradigm Shuffle and their knuckle-dragging ideologies consigned to the local dump. You can thank us for it later citizens of 2017*^.
*in several northern cities it had never really gone away. As a student member of various anti-fascist groups it wasn’t hugely uncommon to find me on a Saturday morning counter-demonstrating a meeting of skinheads somewhere grim. In practice this resulted in a certain amount of dust-ups and, in retrospect quite a lot of being chased through shopping precincts frantically slaloming through bemused shoppers, trying not to be cornered by folk who did not see my hippy dippy lovey dovey worldview as a remotely positive thing.
**the positive fallout of which launched the Anglo-Asian band Cornershop into existence; far be it from me to say that this is the best thing that man has ever achieved.
^sadly not real name, which is the rather more prosaic Nick Page. Damn.
^*clocking in only at a measly, why bother, 89BPM.
^^which I used to proudly pronounce ‘para-did-gem’ for far longer than an educated chap should.
*^okay so it is easy to poke fun, but it was all very real at the time. Now is the time for a real, smart, angry musical uprising.