"Because FREEDOM NOW will always be a better pop moment than We Shall Overcome, Someday" - Two Fun-Da-Mental reviews, 1994, Melody Maker.
(A brief note: they utterly blew my mind, Fun-Da-Mental, and these two rather breathless epistles from 94 are what leaked out as a result. These reviews in combination with a rather nasty Credit To The Nation slag-off proved to me that I could write this stuff and my editors wouldn't knock it back, were willing to let me explore potentially controversial issues. I was very young and very convinced but what's odd reading these again is just how much of what I've writ prefigures the kind of stuff I wrote in Eastern Spring)
MOSELEY DANCE CENTRE
21 May 1994 (Melody Maker)
In this green unpleasant land, political choice is between you and your remote control Life just isn’t that dramatic is it? It just surges on. So, when you heard that BNP phone message on the new Fun-Da-Mental single, how did you feel? Listen to it again; the passionate timbre of his voice, the chilling conviction. This man means what he says, and he will try to enact it. You realise that this is war.
Black people are realising that fascism is not a foreign virus to be expelled from Britain's healthy body, it’s a national disease encoded in the very fabric of society at all levels. It is ingrained in what it is to be British. The BNP are Britain’s hidden self made flesh, and that’s why the phone message shocks, because the little scab is under the country’s skin and to fight the fascists means to wage war on our national identity.
Fun-Da-Mental understand this implicitly – that any band addressing racism without being revolutionary are just more grist to the mill. They know that to revolutionise a culture you need to make a radical assessment of it and that that assessment, by virtue of their historical situation , is provided by black people. What’s great about tonight is the obvious links Fun-Damental are forging between the Afro-Caribbean and Asian communities, playing this gig in an area most bands would avoid because they know that for both ethnic groups in Britain, Black Power is the politics of survival, and unified militant action has to replace the begging-bowl syndrome of the Black Liberal era.
Perhaps the most moving moments tonight are when they create the end of prejudice in the very stuff of their sound, forging a sonic world where the binary oppositions of racial conflict abscond, storming hip-hop beats melt into Asian film strings and burst into a flurry of techno mayhem before it all melts in a mix that’s thrilling in a way I never thought possible. Fun-Da-Mental realise that to truly see an end to prejudice we have to remove the concepts of race, gender and sexuality from our vocabulary, remove the power dialectic from our discourse on all these relationships. And in their music they dramatise that better world.
Lyrically, in the brilliant ‘Frontline’ and the monstrous ‘Dog-Tribe, they emphasise that the meantime is a mean time. In the bar I see a group of indie-kids grabbing their crotches, doing their nigga-skank shuffle, giggling and shouting “Shut up you stroppy c**s!”. But I can’t be angry tonight. Fun-Da-Mental are so ball-bustingly exhiliarating, with Blacka-D streaming white light in our faces and Propa-Ghandi leaping around like a f***ing maniac, in one of the most inspiring nights I’ve had since Public Enemy first crashed into my bedroom all those years ago.
New Asian Kool? When pigmentation becomes a fashion accessory I head for the door. Fun-Da-Mental are above such Select silliness, their fusion of radical politics with equally radical music is my idea of heaven and tonight they barnstorm the brain. Life-changing.
SEIZE THE TIME
(1st July 1994, Melody Maker)
FORGIVE me, please, put can we just sort this shit out? In a recent Backlash I was told that "racism has always been negligible in Britain", that recent election results spell the end of fascism, and that any prejudice in the UK is the work of a "tiny minority".
When I hear this reason, history, discourse, all evaporate into wordless, stomach-churning fury; I gasp, I cry, I tense, I wonder why I'm still so surprised at white ignorance and insensitivity to racial issues, and the fear and loathing kicks in again. Because that's the power of hatred. The shout from a passing van window, the night at the bus stop or chippy where abuse and fists fly, the vaginal search your gran tells you of, the eyes on the street, the tight clutch of the handbag as you pass - all those moments are replayed and erase the months of tolerance that intersperse them, becoming a dirtmark on your memory that can never be removed.
This hatred feeds itself, because the last thing you feel after that little bit of verbal flak is rational, reasoned, open to argument. And we all know what the refusal to argue is. Midway between wanting to tear your skin off and hurl it starward to show these people the aching heart beneath and affirming the skin as the only valid motivation your life can cling to, you have to make the choice - between fear and love, and it's all too easy to choose the former. Fun-Da-Mental make their choice whenever they play, it's a choice that's made easier the more you listen to them. Which is why I urge you to hear this album.
It's a huge album. Collosal. In sound, in scope, in ambition. It's a rewriting of history, a two-tonne Occam's Razor into our present and a vision of the future, all served up in a vast, pan-global feast of sound to wander and think and dance in forever. Because Fun-Da-Mental's particular universe of musical diversity is a response to hatred and oppression it naturally plays out a darker, rougher, less fluid eclecticism than say, Trans-Global Underground or Loop Guru. Different soundworlds collide and are forced together by sheer mutual insistence - a seething mass of slogans, lush strings crushed against turbid hip-hop, samples scraping and sparking against each other until they're re-forged in the cross-faded inferno.
"Mera Mazab" is like driving down Foleshill Road, Coventry, the booming techno from your system mixing with the Bollywood strings and muezzin calls until pedestrians start cutting up the pavement to find the funky beach below. "No More Fear" (for me, the highlight) throbs on a beat like Doomsday, a flurry of samples chasing each other round your head. It's music that inhabits its own world; you get the feeling that should a Utopia ever exist, this album will be its national anthem.
"Seize The Time" is an awesome achievement that sends you spinning out into the street wired, buzzing, palpably changed and brainstormed. Too, too rare. And this is NEVER just "a black thing". You will understand that Fun-Da-Mental are far more than that: WE ARE ALL IN HERE. For a band to be this righteous and compelling is precious indeed. Because it is a choice between fear and love, between The Power and humanity. Because FREEDOM NOW will always be a better pop moment than We Shall Overcome, Someday. Because a bloody nose, a sprayed window or a stab in the neck can't eclipse the truth.
Damn right it's essential.