Review and photography by John Bentley

Firstly, what and who are Transglobal Underground? Well ‘TGU’ have been around since the early 1990s (first album ‘Dream of 100 Nations’); they are a ground-breaking band fusing dance music, reggae, Asian, middle-eastern and African music styles. In their extravagant shows they feature live percussion (lots of it) and other instruments like sitar, as well as using electronic sounds, beats and samples.

Transglobal Underground at Hebden Bridge Trades Club 29 November 2019

Over nearly 30 years they’ve had a large revolving cast of band members with a bewildering set of aliases. However, at the core have been Tim Whelan (keyboards, electronics – aka Alex Kasiek) and Hami (drums – aka Hamid Mantu, aka Hamilton Lee). Other long-term band members playing in the current incarnation are TUUP (singer and percussionist – aka ‘The Unorthodox Unprecedented Preacher’, aka Godfrey Duncan), Sheema Mukherjee (sitar and bass) and Gurjit Sihra (dhol, a double sided barrel drum). One of the band’s most famous members is Natacha Atlas, who featured on the band’s first few albums, pioneering a fusion of western and Arabic singing: she has re-joined the band for some recent London concerts, but is not touring with them.

Transglobal Underground at Hebden Bridge Trades Club 29 November 2019

The gig is a late Friday night extravaganza and from doors opening at 8pm the DJ lays down some thumping heavy dub reggae. Support comes from Tetchi, a ‘psychedelic electronic dance band’ from Hebden Bridge, who carry on the beat groove. Tetchi pride themselves on playing all sorts, from clubs to festivals, with live bass, drums and keyboards, rather than just relying on electronics and samples. Tetchi have the audience up and dancing for the next hour and in the mood for the grooves of Transglobal Underground that follow.

tetchi at Hebden Bridge Trades Club 29 November 2019

Taking the stage at 10.45pm (when most gigs are winding-up), TGU have an awesome reputation for putting on great live shows and tonight truly is an audio-visual extravaganza, with the pace and groove unrelenting. Backed by an impressive light show, the band give us a 90 minute trip through their impressive back catalogue. The term is overused, but this is truly ‘world’ music, with such a range of influences. Dub / reggae are key elements, especially in the current line-up, but there are so many other styles dropping in to the mix, such as eastern string parts on ‘Eyeway Souljah’, exotic jazziness on ‘The Green Spider’ and Indian drums and sitar on ‘Lookee Here’. Amid all the electronica we then get a track like ‘Vanilka’, which features mostly ‘real instruments’, that is gorgeous sitar played by Sheema and three sets of percussion played by TUUP, Hami and Gurjit. Drawing some of the greatest applause of the evening is the uplifting ‘Temple Head’, an old stalwart from the band’s first album, a true ‘hit’ that was even used in a Coca-Cola advertisement before the 1996 Olympics.

Transglobal Underground at Hebden Bridge Trades Club 29 November 2019

Transglobal Underground at Hebden Bridge Trades Club 29 November 2019

The gig finishes with the percussion-fest of ‘Drums of Navarone’ and the fast dub-pop of ‘Dancehall Operator’. I think the band thought that was it, but the continuous rapturous applause of the Hebden Bridge crowd after TGU exit the stage brings them back on. They aren’t sure what to play – someone in the audience shouts out for ‘Yellow and Black Taxi Cab’, which they duly perform, allowing TUUP to really come into his own as a roots singer. A guy standing next to me, who appears to be a newcomer to TGU, sums it all up when he turns to me and says, “I really love this band!”

TGU have a new album due out in 2020.

Transglobal Underground at Hebden Bridge Trades Club 29 November 2019

Transglobal Underground at Hebden Bridge Trades Club 29 November 2019

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