Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



British-based multi-cultural group formed in Aug. '91 for London's annual Notting Hill Carnival, drawing on Indian, Afro-Caribbean and Afro-American musical forms but highly politicized, often with a distinctive Islamic or civil rights twist: e.g. songs such as 'Mr Bubbleman' and 'Fartherland' use contemporary idioms but also political language and values. Initial lineup consisted of Bad-Sha Lallaman and Aki Nawaz (properly Haq Qureshi) who went under the stage name of Propa-Gandhi, Man-Tharoo (who later went under the name of Goldfinger) and DJ Obeah (who would be replaced by Dave Watts). The least convincing colour on their style palette would be rap; their originality lies in their manipulation of soundbite and sample. Often witty, they mix samples of the classical instruments, the metamorphosed motif of the train whistle from the Hindi film Pakeezah, Pakistani village music and filmi (Indian film music), all woven into a patterns of flavours. They are also infl. by the spirit of punk; Nawaz had played with Southern Death Cult '84. An Asian focus emerged, increasingly accomplished; the '91 lineup lasted 18 months, a lifespan for each incarnation, Tricky-style, which came to suit Aki Nawaz (Propa-Gandhi) and Dave Watts (Dave D. Watts, later Impi-D), who became Fun-Da-Mental's core members. Debut single was 'Janaam -- The Message'/'Righteous Preacher'; 'Gandhi's Revenge'/'Azaan -- The Calling' and cassette singles anthology Peace, Love Or War all appeared '91. They remained a singles group with 'Wrath Of The Blackman'/'Sista India' '93, still treated as a novelty act in some ways until Countryman late '93, which was playlisted by MTV/Europe; ever more focused, their songs functioned as statements addressing issues compared to rap's tiresome discriminatory stances and violent posturing; e.g. 'Countryman' was the tale of an emigrant worker arriving in Britain and discovering a blighted promised land.

By now Fun-Da-Mental comprised Amir Ali (lyrics), Aki Nawaz (music), Inder Matharu (lyrics/percussion), Watts (additional samples) and Count Dubulah (bass/guitar). Lallaman and Goldfinger left Aug. '93, replaced by MC Mushtaq and Hot Dog Dennis. They marked their arrival in style with a debut double album Seize The Time '94 on Beggar's Banquet/Nation, as well as a new stage name for Watts, now working as Impi-D (after touring South Africa; 'impi' means warrior). Gavin Martin in the New Musical Express compared Seize The Time to Chuck D's definition of rap as 'a CNN for young black America', but it was more than that: 'Dog War' was bookended with a soundbite of an obscene and racist answerphone message from a member of Britain's arch neo-Nazi organization, making racism tangible. 'Mother India' at the end of the first disc catalogued the achievements of Indian womankind (the title slyly alluding to an Indian film) before becoming a more universal theme, its message clearly opposed to the excesses perpetrated in macho gangsta-rap. On 'Mr Bubbleman' the English Tory politician Alan Clark was captured in the paradox of balancing his professed vegetarianism (pronouncements on the slaughter of animals) while having no ethical stance on British arms dealing. On 'President Propaganda' the American Louis Farrakhan warns of a new neo-colonial dismemberment of Africa. Sly musical lifts and quotes abounded: the Hindustani classical virtuoso Sultan Khan's sarangi on 'Fartherland', swoops of filmi strings, sampled sitar and tabla. They contributed three cuts to the compilation Inner Nation on Strange Fruit/Nation '94, with Trans-Global Underground and Loop Guru. Their second album With Intent To Pervert The Course Of Injustice! '95 was instrumental remixes. By late '95 Propa-Gandhi and Impi-D began to collaborate with musicians who previously would have been raided: Propa-Gandhi was remixing Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan '96 while Impi-D collaborated on Rachid Taha's Ol‚, Ol‚ on Mango. Their label, Nation, also provides a conduit for like-minded acts, many of whom work on each other's albums, such as Trans- Global Underground, Natacha Atlas and Asian Dub Foundation.