Asian Dub Foundation

By Swenson, Kyle | Guitar Player, March 1999 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Asian Dub Foundation

Swenson, Kyle, Guitar Player

Trad Guitar Heretics

"Jimi Hendrix was incredible, but I don't consider him a guitar player," challenges Asian Dub Foundation guitarist Chandrasonic. "He was an expressionist. He wasn't about technique. He was about fashioning sound to convey volcanoes of emotion and atmosphere, and I think he is the most misinterpreted guitar player on earth. Anyone who thinks doing a cover of `Voodoo Chile' is a tribute to Hendrix is wrong. It's a great insult. When Jimi came out in 1967, he sounded like he was in 2067. You can only hold him in reverence by making music that looks ahead 20 to 30 years."

Here in 1999, England's Asian Dub Foundation creates hyperactive freak-outs of musical energy with beat-heavy mixes of hip-hop, classical Indian music, and rock. But the five-member collective--who recently debuted with Rafi's Revenge [London]--wishes to do more than make people dance. They want to make music that stays fresh for a good chunk of the next century. To do that, Chandrasonic contends that the guitar must be dragged out of its past.

"Dance producers who do jungle, house, or techno have laughed at the guitar for years," he says. "And rightly so. Most people who play guitar are incredibly boring and conservative. The guitar is an instrument strangled by its own history. The last band to do anything good with guitars was Sonic Youth because of their tunings and reinterpretations of the guitar's sound. The only way to make guitar relevant is to make it work with the most innovative forms of late '90s music--things like raga, jungle, and hip-hop."

One way that Chandrasonic avoids "guitar-hero traps" is by representing ADF's lyrics with evocative guitar timbres. "For example, our song `Naxalite' is about a guerilla uprising, so the guitar sound has to reflect conflict," he says. "And the guitar solo in the middle of `Buzzin' is like an insect--it scampers at high speed. When I was a music-technology teacher, the main point I conveyed to students was, `Don't worry about notes or chords. Get a picture in your head, and let it come out in your instrument. Don't play a B[flat]7, instead play a volcano, fly, or a car chase.'"

Although Chandrasonic disdains classic-rock solos, on Rafi's Revenge he slips into some very Hendrix-like moments. "Sometimes it feels good to rip on the guitar," he admits. "But sometimes it's good not to play at all. On some tracks, I don't even play notes. I might just play a staccato figure and damp all the strings to make the guitar sound like a percussion instrument."

Rhythm is key to ADF's music, and Chandrasonic decries the sorry state of groove practiced by many of today's guitarists.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Asian Dub Foundation


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?