There aren't very many nice things you can say about the British Empire, in fact I'd say you'd be hard pressed to find any. But as a result of the Britain's colonial ambitions of years gone by that funny little island off the coast of France has become a gathering place for the myriad of people who at one time lived under her always sunny flag.
Probably two of the largest immigrant groups were Indians and Jamaicans. Both groups have been settled in their newfound country now long enough to be on third generations. Through proximity the two groups, especially the younger generation, have become to grown familiar with each other's culture, specifically music. This is leading to some interesting combinations and meetings between the two.
To the uninitiated Apache Indian merely sounds redundant, but to those in the know it means a lot more. Apache Indian is the name taken by one of England's most popular singers. Of Indian, not Native American, Indian heritage he has combined the traditional bhangra music with reggae to come up with a sound that represents the best of both worlds.
In 2006 Apache Indian toured with Reggae Revolution as a part of the World Of Music And Dance (WOMAD) tour. As part of the tour they played the Musicport World Music Festival in Whitby, North Yorkshire United Kingdom. It was at this concert that the DVD Time For Change Tour Live was filmed and is now being released through MVD
Apache himself is an impressive looking man, tall and straight with a very full head of dreadlocks and great stage presence; constantly dancing and performing high leg kicks associated with martial arts and bhangra dance steps. Thankfully not wearing tons of gold jewelery around his neck or acting in any way like a North American hip-hop performer save for some similarities in vocal inflection Apache weaves in and out amidst six or seven members of The Reggae Revolution.
I'm questioning the number in the group not because I can't count but because I'm not sure if one of the people on stage is from The Revolution or if he works exclusively with Apache Indian. Gubzy is listed in the credits as playing Indian percussion, which seems to include sampled sounds as well as live, because he spends as much time standing over an electronic box as he does the Tabla or picking up the two headed dhol.
There's a great moment right in the middle of the concert where they stop all the music except for Gubzy and his drums. On the back cover of the DVD track listings they are listed as "Gubzy's Freestyle" and "Dholblast" and they are lumped under the title of "Hey Baba Improv" on the inside track listing, but whatever you want to call them they are great. He is an amazing drummer and gives a clinic in how to play the dhol as he leads the band and the audience in some great rhythms.
The Reggae Revolution seems like they are The Band for hire these days having played with people like Sting and groups like Musical Youth. It's no wonder, because they are wonderful. Not only can they be counted on to lay down a rock solid reggae beat but they can jump right into any improvisation with ease.
After a while I found myself wishing there were more of those breaks for improvisation like the one with Gubzy as Apache's sound began to get rather monotonous. Although the lyrical content was more interesting then usual, the rap style approach started to wear thin after a while. I began to wonder whether the people in the audience were absorbing any of what he was saying.
Whenever there was a shot of the audience they all seemed to be in a music induced daze as they shuffled back and forth dancing with their heads down. To me that 's not an attitude very conducive for listening. People need to have their minds kept sharp if they are going to listen and have anything register.
Part of the problem with the repetitive nature of the music was caused by their being something wrong with the mix of the sound. Whether this was the fault of the original source concert or the DVD itself I don't know. I do know I tried every damned sound setting my speaker system and DVD player had and I still could barely hear the horn section of Reggae Revolution.
The first indication that there was a problem came early when saxophone player started a solo and "look ma no sound". That continued throughout the whole disc; occasionally I could make out the sound of Revolution's leader's trombone, or a little bit of saxophone. The horns would have made a big difference I think in diversifying the sound.
Aside from that it was still a lot of fun to watch Apache Indian and listen to somebody sing songs about topics that were relevant to today's world and that attempted to explain cultural differences. I think Apache Indian is one of the performers who are learning how to create a truly global sound by drawing on their own heritage and extending a hand in musical fellowship to others.
Watching that happen on Apache Indian & The Reggae Revolution's Time For Change Tour Live DVD went a long way towards compensating for any deficiencies in sound. This is a first step on a path of preserving individual cultures while embracing others. A type of globalization we should all approve of as it eliminates nationalistic feelings sometimes associated with cultural pride.
It's worth watching for that reason alone if nothing else. We need more performers like both of these groups to offset so much of what the rest of the world is doing. They may not be able to change the world, but they do show how change is possible if you want it. You just have to make effort.