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Asian Dub Foundation and Laal in Alchemy first – making a difference

Asian Dub Foundation and Laal in Alchemy first – making a difference

May 24 2016

One of the country’s most iconic bands plays a headlining concert at this year’s Alchemy Festival and are joined by a rather special group from Pakistan…

By Suman Bhuchar

JOHN PANDIT laughingly referred to himself as the “old fella in the back” – and is the sprightly fifty something founder and core member of the Asian Dub Foundation (ADF) band.

He explained that he now spends more time DJing with the sound system than he is fronting the band, due to his domestic caring responsibilities for his wife, Sarbjit who suffered from a stroke eleven years ago.

Pandit, (aka Pandit G), was a youth worker when the band first formed and is one of the original founders of ADF, along with Aniruddha Das, aka Dr Das, a young student, and Deedar Zaman – who all were later joined by Steve Chandra Savale (Chandrasonic).

He recalled the heady activism days, when the group used to teach young people about music and creative technology while performing as a sound system, which then naturally progressed to performing as a band.

He told  why is he excited to be introducing, Laal – a socialist and progressive band onto the Alchemy stage on Friday evening (May 27) to play together in what is being billed as a ‘poignant peace concert’, at the Royal Festival Hall and as part of the ongoing Alchemy Festival (until May 30).

Laal and ADF share a similar outlook, explained Pandit: “We have a deep reverence and admiration for what the band is doing. The environment in Pakistan is completely different to that in England and here we are progressive secular people who take it for granted that we can be critical of anything, but the environment there is so difficult.”

Pandit first accessed their music through the internet and then via Anwar Akhtar, the director of the online Samosa project – a media project focussing on building intercultural links between Britain, Pakistan and the Diaspora.

He said that the session at the Royal Festival Hall will be a one off because “we don’t know what the outcome will be – first ADF will play, then Laal will perform and then the two groups will jam together”.

Pandit, who is Irish Indian, grew up on a farm and like many dual heritage children felt the need to speak out against injustice as a young man living in Harlow, Essex during the end of the 1970s and early 1980s constantly running into skinheads. 

This led to him getting involved in anti-racist activity, working as a youth worker and then a natural progression into creating ADF.

The band was the first to embrace digital technology when it was very nascent and also began educating young people in music and creative skills.

Their sound can be described as a combination of electronic, dub, raga and rap influenced by punk and sitar proved popular with multicultural left field audiences looking for progressive music.

Their album “Rafi’s Revenge” (1998) was shortlisted for the 1998 Mercury Music Prize. It included the track, Free Satpal Ram, a song campaigning against a miscarriage of justice suffered by a young Asian man.  Later the group undertook a live rescore to French director Mathieu Kassovitz’s film, “La Haine“, and even produced the music for the dub opera, “Gaddafi: A Living Myth” at the London Coliseum in 2006.

Laal – the name means the colour ‘Red’ is headed by Taimur Rahman, a young academic, musician and social activist whose day job is teaching Political Science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

The group grew out of playing music at protests and their sound is inspired by the Urdu poetry of radical poets such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz who stood for the rights of workers, socialism and democracy and against military dictatorships and religious fundamentalism in the early days of Pakistan’s formation.

Amongst the groups most famous songs are “Umeed e-Sahar” (‘Dreaming of a New Dawn’), “Utho Meri Duniya” (‘Awake my world’) and “Deshat Gardi Murda-abad” (‘Death to Terrorism’).

“We all have come out activism,” says Pandit “and this sounds like an interesting and organic collaboration.”

This promises to be one of the highlights of the Alchemy Festival 2016 and a chance to see one of Britain’s most influential groups pass the torch of inspiration to a new generation of musicians also battling injustice and social strife.

Asian Dub Foundation and Laal, ‘A poignant peace concert’, presented in partnership with The Samosa and with support from Rangoonwalla Foundation, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XX, Friday, May 27 7.30pm Royal Festival Hall.  Tickets, £22, £17, and £10.
More info/book here:

Picture: Laal and ADF

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture


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