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Trans-Global Underground: 'Impossible Broadcasting'


Now to music and the London-based band Trans-Global Underground. This is a world beat band, which means its mix of influences include the Indian youth musical form called bhangra, plus Gypsy, folk, hip-hop, punk. The band's latest album is "Impossible Broadcasting." Now for DAY TO DAY, producer Derek Rath has this report.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man: This is London.

Unidentified Choir: (Singing in foreign language)

DEREK RATH reporting:

Trans-Global Underground coalesced about 12 years ago from an alliance of musical misfits, deejays and multinational dilettantes in Britain, who, fed up with the endless diet of corporate pop, just wanted to follow the music in their own heads.

(Soundbite of music)

RATH: Little did they know they would form one of the longest-lasting groups in world beat circles and reshape the careers of many other musicians. Trans-Global's sixth album, "Impossible Broadcasting," has just been released. Multi-instrumentalist Hamilton Lee talked to me about the group's longevity and increasing international popularity.

Mr. HAMILTON LEE (Trans-Global Underground): We find ourselves playing strange places on the planet, you know, like the Ukraine, you know, and then Sri Lanka, India, you know, doing tours of all these places where, you know, kind of not many people go. I think by the nature of the music we play, we seem to sort of kind of--we're a lot easier on the ears with a lot of people in more sort of different, diverse places.

(Soundbite of song)

TRANS-GLOBAL UNDERGROUND: (Singing) Tattoo(ph) came down from the mountain. It looks like we're after Frederick...

Backup Singers: (Singing) In Africa.

TRANS-GLOBAL UNDERGROUND: (Singing) Looks like we're after Frederick...

Backup Singers: (Singing) In Avinia(ph).

RATH: More troupe than group when their first record "Templehead," was issued, Trans-Global's fearless blend of Indian, classical, reggae, bhangra, deejay culture, community politics and The Clash turned into an unexpected hit. They were unprepared for the response and had to adapt quickly. Hamilton Lee--stage name Mantu, or maybe Hamid--remembers those days fondly.

Mr. LEE: We had, like, the three of us and a ...(unintelligible) player and a singer and an Arabic belly dancer, and we were doing the rave scene around in Scotland and various other parts of England. And people were thoroughly confused by what we were doing 'cause, I mean, it was the height of, like--well, the rave scene, and I think a lot of people had some bad drug experiences possibly by seeing us on stage.

RATH: So wearing masks disguised as Nepalese temple guards and adopting stage names such as Count Dubulah, Queen La Cuica and Bad-Sha Lallaman, the circus hit the road performing, as much a mysterious collective as a band.

(Soundbite of "Spoiyana Marlalay(ph)")

TRANS-GLOBAL UNDERGROUND: (Singing in foreign language)

RATH: The song, "Spoiyana Marlalay," a collaboration between Trans-Global and longtime creative partners Trio Bulgarka, was created in this same spirit of open-mindedness and makeshift adventure. Surviving many personnel changes and shifting public tastes, Trans-Global is once again responding to their world, which is, like the group, in a state of constant flux and realignment. Assimilating the changing face of Europe, Trans-Global is now bringing more Turkish, Gypsy and Balkan influences to the table. Not only that, they work directly with musicians in the many countries they tour in rather than relying on samples. Hamilton Lee.

Mr. LEE: We did a collaboration with a brass band actually from Romania, which we didn't think would work. And it worked brilliantly because, you know, they'd never worked with a sequencer before. It was a sound system concept that we did. In fact, what we had to do was make the computer actually follow the brass band. They couldn't follow the computer, so the computer had to follow them. So it was real hands on, you know, pushing buttons to stop when they stopped and then anticipate when they were going to start again after break.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Singer: Oh, ha!

(Soundbite of music)

RATH: "Impossible Broadcasting" was recorded in London, Sofia, Budapest, Paris, Prague, Cairo and, via the Internet, in home studios around the globe, not to mention the host of acquittances and friends recorded in the streets and bars all over the world. Some argue that this blending of traditional and native cultures is just musical imperialism, another downside of globalization. Again, Hamilton Lee.

Mr. LEE: An aspect of globalization could be, you know, the exchange of musical ideas, culture and everything through the Internet, you know. Is that a form of globalization? I suppose it is, isn't it, really?

(Soundbite of song)

TRANS-GLOBAL UNDERGROUND: (Singing in foreign language)

RATH: A myriad of dancers in dozen of countries are only too happy to embrace Trans-Global Underground's particular brand of international musical detente. "Impossible Broadcasting" is Trans-Global's version of a two-way transistor radio tuned into the human experience and transmitting a sometimes unexpected soundscape to and from a brave new world. For NPR News, I'm Derek Rath.

(Soundbite of song)

TRANS-GLOBAL UNDERGROUND: (Singing in foreign language)

CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. More just ahead on DAY TO DAY. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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