Back in the early '90s, when 'drum and bass' were two separate things and 'trip hop' was something you did on a loose paving stone, three men met up in an inadequate studio armed with a Simon Harris break beat album, a cassette of chants recorded on a holiday to Tahiti, a sampler and some basic recording equipment. In the space of a few hours, Alex Kasiek, Tax D and Hamid Mantu had created the first version of what would become their biggest selling record and the beginning of a whole new life for them. The trio called the record Temple Head and themselves TransGlobal Underground.
After a couple of meetings with record labels it soon became apparent that this record was not easy for people to understand. You could dance to it but it was too slow to be house. Apart from the sampled chorus of 'na na na, na na na', there were no lyrics and wasn't seen as commercial enough to be a pop song - there seemed to be no place or genre for TransGlobal Underground.
That was until the Temple Head cassette fell into the hands of Nation Records, a label created specifically to fuse western dance music with Arabic music, Asian music, and African music. Straight away, it fitted in with what Nation had been doing on the two Fuse compilations, released around the same time. After a couple of days in a better studio and the addition of Inder Goldfinger on tablas, Terry Neale - The Human Cuica, and a rapper known as Sheriff, the single was finished and released on Nation in 1991. Straight away, it created a commotion among those looking for something new: DJs such as Rampling and Weatherall and clubs like Whirl-Y-Gig and Club Dog.
Gradually, the media caught up and 'Temple Head' became Melody Maker's 'Single Of The Week': "the kind of record that makes you proud to be an Earthling." Mixmag thrust it straight to No. 1 in their Buzz ChartKiss FM DJs were playing it during the day ((at the wrong speed) Gary Davies was playing it during the day on Radio One (at the right speed). Magazines were climbing over themselves for interviews, everyone wanted to know who this band were. Wanting to stay anonymous, some press shots were quickly knocked together with the three of them wearing carved Nepalese temple guardians masks, and the foundations of the band's 'trans-global' image were laid.
At this point, along came Deconstruction Records, quick to seize on anything
going on on the dance scene, with an offer to make an album for them. Quickly an
assortment of friends, associates and distant relatives got thrown into a studio
in Euston and recorded the fundamentals of what was to be TransGlobal
Underground's first album. Tuup,
a very old ally, got involved at this point and Jalal from Loop Guru co-wrote
one track. The sessions also marked the first appearance of vocalist
Natacha Atlas, who had recently departed from Invaders of the Heart. She gave a
performance that reduced the whole studio to tears, then capped it by belly
dancing around the control room wearing a copy of the Daily Mirror. So she was
The group's current sound is less electronic, but it still blends acoustic and electronic instruments. "We always used a lot of real instrumentation. The mixture was part of the whole concept at the beginning. The difference is that the balance has changed."
Hamid Man Tu describes the group's approach to sampling: "One important thing is that the technology has developed a long way since we started and 'sampling' was new and exciting. Most forms of digital technology - which are what most people record with these days – are basically a form of sampling, so the division between sampling and live recording has become blurred, especially with people like us who were never too sure which was which." For those who believe Trans Global Underground samples from CDs, Tu adds: "We sample ourselves a lot, then we play over the samples, then we sample over the recording...er...then we start getting confused. Somehow or other a record comes out of the whole thing."
TransGlobal Underground have been there and done that. They've been built up by the press and knocked down by the press. They've played to huge crowds in almost every country in the world, released four albums and numerous singles, six of which were awarded Single of The Week by NME and Melody Maker, they've executed remixes for Pop Will Eat Itself, Dodgy, Grotus and Les Baxter (to name a few), signed deals with both BMG and then Sony (neither worked out) and handed over "Temple Head" to Coca-Cola for their ad campaign preceding the 1996 Olympics.
Over the last years, the band's line-up has changed frequently, from album to album, satisfying the band's hunger for new sounds and ideas, always keeping their sound fresh. There are sounds from all over - India, Africa, Egypt, Israel, Europe. They use traditional instruments such as tabla, dhol, conga, violin, kalimba, jembe, piano, shenai, tons of percussion, tons of bass, all fused with the sounds of 90's dance culture - hip-hop, house, techno - the list goes on and on.
Lately, the sound TransGlobal Underground seems less Arabic and more Indian. "The Arabic influence was largely due to Natacha Atlas' voice and since we're still working with her solo projects and doing various production work for other Middle Eastern artists, a lot of our interests in that style are satisfied elsewhere (sounds like we're eating a great big bucket of couscous doesn't it). The main new Indian element is that we now have Sheema Mukherjee playing sitar, which involves a more melodic influence over the usual bhangra drum frenzy we like to indulge in."
Even though many fans think of TransGlobal Underground as a club band, the group plays more and more in larger venues. "As there's now seven of us, we don't often fit into dance clubs. We seem to do 50% small sweaty venues and 50% big spacious festivals, which is a good combination."
The group continues to work with Natacha Atlas on various projects although she has not participated in TransGlobal Underground's latest recordings. "Natacha sometimes turns up backstage and makes us some excellent mint tea. As I mentioned, we're all over her new album and she survived the experience so yeah, we'll be working together when we can."
In 2003 Coleridge opened a dance record business of his own and TransGlobal
Doreen Thobekile began work on a solo project of hers. A whole nation of members
of the tribe have come and gone; original male vocalist Tuup came and went at
irregular intervals, reappearing unexpectedly in different parts of the world.
At various times the line-up has included South African solo artist Doreen
Thobekile, Johnny Kalsi from the Dhol Foundation, and still includes Great
greatest sitarist, Sheema Mukherjee.
A Gathering of Strangers (2010)
The Stone Turntable (Mule Satellite Records, 2011)
Kabatronics (World Village, 2013)
Official Web Site: http://www.t-g-u.com/
|World Music, World Fusion, Electronic, Sitar, Percussion, Synthesizer|