Trans-Global Underground had to happen. They refused to accept that dance music had to be four to the floor house. They refused to accept that something called ‘World Music’ ever existed. They slowed down hip hop and sped up dub. They sang in whatever language they felt like singing in. they were DJs but they played live. Their influence is all over the place, sometimes benign, sometimes joyful, sometimes beautiful and sometimes bloody dreadful. But the price of innovation is often a trail of shite left in your wake. A thousand dodgy car adverts with colourful tribespeople, colonialised blanded out ethnic samples and ten year old beats…that’s not it at all…
We’re talking about the early nineties here, when drum and bass were two separate things and trip hop was something you did on a paving stone. It’s a long time ago, many brain cells have been lost since and, in any case, it’s often been uncertain as to who Trans-Global Underground were from one day to the next. Names were changed at will, members came and went and often came back again, so forgive us if you were there at the time and it all looked different.
So, fact: the name Trans-Global Underground followed on from the recording of a single, ‘Temple Head’ for Nation records, a label created specifically to fuse western dance music with Arabic music, Asian music, African music…then more a dream than a reality. Some names: (some only dreamt up later) Man Tu, Tax D, Alex Kasiek, percussionists Goldfinger and Terry Neale the Human Quica, rapper Sheriff, Aki from the soon to be notorious Fun-Da-Mental. Some background experiences: DJ culture, Indian classical, reggae, bhangra, hip hop, community politics, underground art and eighties pop. ‘Temple head’ was the result of this meeting and Trans-Global Underground was the result of ‘Temple Head.’
‘Temple Head’ caused delight and confusion in equal measure. DJs such as Andy Weatherall Danny Rampling and Monkey Pilot caught on fast while other DJs, confronted by a record featuring tablas, Polynesian vocals and playing at 95bpm, simply played the thing at 45rpm instead of 33. It became Single of the Week in Melody Maker and got played on daytime Radio One. The first public faces of TGU appeared; three Nepalese Temple guardians, an identity which caught the mood of the single and saved effort on photo sessions.
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 TGUs 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 round the control room wearing a copy of the Daily Mirror. So she was in.