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AWIL 154 - Aki Nawaz

 Legendary Punk global music pioneer, Aki Nawaz on this A World in London! Click:

At AWIL, interviewing someone I’ve known for a long time is extra exciting because that’s when there’s a chance to really discover so much more about who they actually are and what makes them tick. Aki Nawaz lived up to all expectations with his fascinating history and inspirational travels in music, and also by dispelling many of those ridiculous myths about people of colour being one-dimensional & limited to a diet of ‘ethnic’. His story begins somewhere in Bradford, a boy growing up on Ritchie Blackmore’s Deep Purple guitar riffs, then becoming a huge punk rock fan soaking up the sparks and spit of the Sex Pistols in the 70s. Aki defied every convention that said the music business was not a suitable place for good Muslim Asians, and in fact did the exact opposite by joining notorious Northern band Southern Death Cult. As if that wasn’t haram enough, or could be passed off as a phase of misspent youth, he moved to London and took things a lot further! Together with Kath Cannoville, who shared Aki’s working class Yorkshire roots & visionary passion for music, he birthed one of the coolest ever record labels that would redefine British music history.  Nation Records boldly rubbed shoulders with other uber-cool labels like Ninja Tune, Metalheadz, and Talking Loud,  in what became a golden era of the ‘indies’, leading a Brit revolution of new musical trends: jungle, drum n’ bass, trip-hop, and Acid Jazz. Nation Records especially, gave an essential platform for artists rejected by major labels, and in doing so, they unleashed some of the hungriest, most talented bands working in the late 80’s and 90’s. Think Transglobal Underground, Loop Guru,  TJ Rehmi, Joi, and Asian Dub Foundation just for starters. In every respect Nation became the launchpad for long-needed musical innovation, demanding space for a  bubbling underground to burst overground, and setting the wheels in motion for a whole music scene to expand and evolve. Global fusion and Asian Underground exploded out of Nation via its white labels, ethos, clubnights and Global Sweatboxes at the Bass Clef, Subterranea, and The Astoria.  Aki’s own band Fun-Da-Mental, embodied much of this energy, employing sufi chants and qawaali scatts, South African gospel harmonies, and uncompromising kick-ass attitude with Dave Watts & Aki head-banging the whole affair. Their lyrics were equally explosive, subversive, and challenging, calling out racism, and corporate capitalism, but sometimes settling into a spiritual charm and grappling with identity politics. Cool magazines like the Face and I.D. flocked to Nation’s rallying cry, as did an entire media circus worldwide, and, that’s where my story with Nation begins. Sometime in the late 80’s they were the first label to send me records which stirred up a radical new sound in my DJ sets and on my BBC show. We were often on tours together taking in Vienna, Ljubljana, Cologne, and one memorable trip to Oslo when Aki was stranded at the airport because he’d lost his passport whilst we (Sister India and Joi) all flew home. Over the years, on planes, in green rooms, and hotel lobbies, I drank and debated with a series of outstanding vocalists that fronted Fundamental – Inder Goldfinger, MC Mushtaq, Nadz (Scalper), Nawazish Ali Khan, and spent hours in the studio with Hustlers H.C. when they recorded Big Trouble in Little Asia. But most of all there were the restful times just chilling in the Nation Office with Kath, Aki, Rich, and Simon Underwood, drinking mugs of tea and contemplating what all this activity from within us, and around us actually meant? Kath and Aki often referred to the ‘Nation family’, and so it was for all of us musical misfits that sailed in the Nation mothership or because of her. The label was set up in 1987, preceding similar initiatives by at least six years so be wary of TV documentaries that claim to be definitive about British Asian music, when more often than not they re-write history, confound the truth, and add in characters that were never even there in those halcyon days. Aki Nawaz’s contribution to music worldwide has been immeasurable – as a pioneer, maverick label boss, A&R man, artist, producer, composer, and performer. He’s still here, as vibrant and punky as ever, relentlessly lighting up the globe – who knows which new next chapters in history he might write?

ARTIST                                                 TRACK                COUNTRY

Joji Hirota & London Taiko Drummers  Hiten Ryu II         Japan/UK

Lord Kitchener                       London Is The Place For Me  Trinidad/UK

Fun-Da-Mental                      Ja Shataan                             UK/world

Southern Death Cult             Moya                                       UK

Harri Kakoulli                       Uzma                                      Greece/UK

Fun-Da-Mental                      Sister India                             UK/world

‘           ‘                                   Bark Like A Dog                    ‘           ‘

14/2/18 – AWIL 154  Online: Production & pics by Sofia Gaetani-Morris, Norman Druker, Sophie Darling,  and sketches by Alban Low. Next week Afla Sackey at SOAS Radio, and Calypso King Alexander D. Great at Resonance! #AWorldinLondon – IN ITS TWELFTH YEAR! Live on Wednesdays 6.30pm Resonance 104.4 & 4pm SOAS Radio  Support the Resonance fm FUNDRAISER!!!