It’s the early 1990s. Drum and bass are two separate things. Club music and live music exist in two separate universes. Bhangra is omnipresent and unknown at one and the same time. Reggae and dub are half-forgotten sub genres. If you want to find any Arabic music in London there’s a guy with a stall at Shepherds Bush Market and that’s about it. Every music genre is parcelled up, labelled up, and kept in it’s own yard as far as possible from any other.
This compilation celebrates a rebellion against the musical divisions of those days, tells the story of how it happened and what happened next.
It all started with a bunch of disgruntled musicians, singers, DJ, writers and sampler geeks hanging round the cramped offices of West London label Nation Records. Primitive computers were stretched to their full possibilities, beaten up analogue synths kept working by screwdrivers and willpower, mashed up cassettes and turntables serviced a concoction of club grooves, dub, bhangra, rock, digital hardcore and oriental melody stirred at random, relying on inspiration and a massive belief in the need to create something new.
Transglobal Underground came out of this, an ever shifting line-up that at first created confusion and astonishment and then a lot of attention and success...firstly due to the club scene’s move into ambient and trance areas, and secondly the focal point of Natacha Atlas as chief vocalist.
Atlas had spent years struggling to be understood and accepted, scraping a living dancing in cabarets in Brussels and the midlands and guesting with the few artists who understood what she was trying to do. But now she was in her element. Bellydancing round club stages while deftly skipping over piles of MIDI cables in high heels and singing flawlessly in Arabic at the same time, she caused a massive stir. No one had seen or heard anything like her on UK stages before.
The impact of those shows led to a solo deal and a touring schedule during which first Transglobal Underground, and later Natacha herself, were stretched beyond even their considerable levels of stamina. As her electronica/oriental mix went platinum across Europe, TGU moved into the background on the production of her music while continuing their own path.
But the team continued to collaborate on film projects, oriental dance shows and regular live reunions with either Natacha guesting with TGU or vice versa...and, to this day they still do, keeping alive a shared vision that crosses every musical boundary they come across but still retains a sound and a vibe totally individual, even over 20 years onwards.