Back in the early nineties drum and bass were two separate things, Asian music was still seen as exotic, dub and reggae as near dead and everyone was playing dance music at the same tempo of 100bpm. This is when Transglobal Underground came into existence, an ever changing line-up of DJs, producers and musicians of all sorts of backgrounds and cultures, linked by a refusal to be straight-jacketed into one style and a belief that mixing musical genres didn’t have to be an obscure artistic statement. Stubbornly individual and fiercely independent they found beats no one else was trying to dance to and ignored any notions of musical barriers, thus moving in and out of fashion and in and out of continents.
Their first single, ‘Temple Head’, became an unlikely club anthem – despite operating at a slow funk tempo with Indian classical rhythms, Brazilian percussion and guitar solos – and their first album, ‘Dream of 100 Nations’, released through Nation Records, reached the top 50, topped the indie charts and got ecstatic reviews. By the mid-nineties the growth of ambient and trance styles had created a hunger for new ideas and Transglobal Underground had plenty.
Fast forward to 2007 and Transglobal Underground return with their 7th album, ‘Moonshout’, the follow-up to 2004’s ‘Impossible Broadcasting’. Released on their own label Mule Satellite Recordings, the 14-track album features founding members Tim Whelan (keyboards/ guitar) and Hamilton ‘Hamid Man Tu’ Lee (drums/ programming), plus the current core members of the collective, Godfrey ‘Tuup’ Duncan (lead vocals/ congas), Sheema Mukherjee (sitar/ bass), Gurjit Sihra (dhol/ kaos pad) and Ravinder Neiyyar (dhol/ tables).
‘Moonshout’ presents Transglobal Underground’s expansive musical kingdom in four distinct moods. The album commences full-on with some of the most dancefloor-friendly songs they have ever recorded. The sounds and influences are from all over the world but the source is clearly the collective’s birthplace in London. Opening track ‘Dancehall Operator’ is a mix of Brazilian drum and bass and Indian rhythms. Title track ‘Moonshout’ includes the Romany roots of rap with vocals by MC Rise FM (Hungary) and Shugmonkey (UK). Vocalist Krupa Pattni (who has worked with One Giant Leap) features on the Bollywood pop style of ‘Emotional Yoyo’, and ‘Awal’ features Iraqi rapper Naufalle from French/Arabic band Aiwa as well as Transglobal Underground’s original vocalist Natacha Atlas who has of course found great success as a solo artist with material still for the most part produced by the collective (this is Natacha’s first appearance on a Transglobal Underground album since her legendary period fronting the group).
Transglobal Underground’s collaboration with Portugal’s notorious Blasted Mechanism on ‘Total Rebellion’ moves the album into a second section of a harder edged territory, with the collective also finally achieving their ambition of writing an angry country song in ‘Swampland’ (featuring Black Sifichi from France/ USA on vocals) and with ‘Cape Thunder’ (featuring South African vocalist Doreen Thobekile and Shimmer Baby from the UK) creating a nightmarish vision of chaos.
There is real beauty to be found on the album, too, most notably on the track ‘Mera Jhumka’ featuring Indian ghazal singing star Nalini Pattni which introduces a series of dub-soaked soundscapes with a strong sub-continental drift, leading up to the epic ‘Spice Garden’ featuring the amazing voice of legendary Bulgarian traditional vocalist Yanka Rupkina (from Trio Bulgarka).
The album’s final three tracks (including ‘Mag ak Ndaw’ which features Prague-based Senegalese vocalist Burama Badji) have little to do with anything Transglobal Underground have ever done…in fact they have little to do with anything anyone has ever done – you could say that this is the closest to Elvis that Transglobal Underground have ever come!
In the early 90s no one would have predicted that in 2007 Transglobal Underground still command this amount of respect and influence, that they would still have a loyal following and that they would still have the energy to continue a touring schedule that would finish most groups off (Transglobal Underground are renowned for their live shows that haven taken them from Venezuela to Kazakhstan. You can catch them in the UK this June and July – see dates below). ‘Moonshout’ cements Transglobal Underground’s reputation – and more.
Transglobal Underground live in the UK in June & July 2007
Saturday, 2 June Wychwood Music Festival, Cheltenham Racecourse www.wychwoodfestival.com
Thursday, 14 June Trinity Arts Centre, St. Philips, Bristol BS2 0NW. Tickets £12 in advance, £14 on door, box office 0870 44 44 400, 8pm – 12 midnight
Friday, 15 June Brewery Arts Centre, Highgate, Kendal, Cumbria LA9 4HE. Doors 8.30pm, tickets £10 available from the box office (01539 725133) or online from www.breweryarts.co.uk
Saturday, 16 June The Big Session Festival, De Montfort Hall, Leicester www.demontforthall.co.uk/bigsession
Tuesday, 26 June Cargo, 83 Rivington Street, Kingsland Viaduct, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3AY (exclusive London show featuring special guests) Tickets are £10 in advance, available from the box office (0870 4018181) or online from www.cargo-london.com/ (£12 on the door)
Thursday, 28 June Komedia, 44 Gardner Street, Brighton BN1 1UN, doors open 8.30pm / Aiwa on-stage: 9pm / TGU on-stage: 10pm, Ticket prices £10 adv, £12 on door, advance tickets from www.komedia.co.uk/brighton or 01273 647100
Friday, 29 June The Beat-Herder Festival, The Ribble Valley, Lancashire www.beatherder.co.uk
Saturday, 30 June Workhouse Festival, Llanfyllin Powys, Wales www.workhousefestival.co.uk
Sunday, 1 July The Point, The Point & Leigh Road recreation ground, Leigh Road, Eastleigh, Hampshire SO50 9DE, 7pm – 10.30pm with TGU headlining from 9pm – 10.30pm, £14.50 in advance (£16.50 on the gate) or weekend ticket for £38 (covers Friday, Saturday & Sunday outdoor concerts), 023 8065 2333 or www.thepoint-online.co.uk/thepoint-539
Friday, 13 July Larmer Tree Festival www.larmertreefestival.co.uk
Sunday, 15 July Middlesborough Mela www.neukol.org.uk/events/mela/
Friday, 20 July Sesiwn Fawr, Dolgellau, Wales www.sesiwnfawr.co.uk/welcome.cfm
Saturday, 21 July Brampton Festival, Carlisle www.bramptonlive.net