The social activism reflected in the lyrics of Asian Dub Foundation, a politically oriented hard-core music collective from London, may have been lost on most of the young dancers at the Troubadour on Tuesday. Instead, they were drawn in by the group’s unbeatable fusion of modern and traditional Indian music styles with ardent punk ethics.
Vocalist Master D. delivered his urgent and frantic raps in a style similar to that of the Beastie Boys, but his Cockney-accented words were mostly inaudible in the loud, high-energy mix, though the between-song commentary — which addressed such topics as political prisoners and historical uprisings against imperialist countries — left no question that this band takes its message at least as seriously as its grooves.
The pre-recorded jungle beats of “Assassin,” from ADF’s 1998 U.S. debut, “Rafi’s Revenge” (ffrr/London), called attention to an early-century uprising of Indian peasants against British rule, while the brand new “Crash,” targeted for the group’s album due this fall, attacked the world’s financial conglomerates with menacing guitar sounds and syncopated raps.
The heavy themes addressed by Asian Dub Foundation (whose members are of Pakistani, Indian and Sri Lankan heritage) could be a bit much for an American music crowd that generally goes for style over this much substance, although the captivating group’s spirited and skilled manner could well lead to success beyond that of such inferior groups as Kula Shaker and Chumbawumba.
Asian Dub Foundation ends its U.S. tour April 7 and 8 at Gotham’s Bowery Ballroom.