Aki Nawaz: It's time to get serious

The frontman of Fun-Da-Mental is undeterred by the row over his alleged support for suicide bombers.
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The Independent Culture

Aki Nawaz has faced the threat of jail, alienation and vilification with his new album, All Is War (the benefits of G-Had). The London-based leader of Fun-Da-Mental found his house besieged by the media when they caught the whiff of a story around the track "Cookbook DIY", which discusses the making of a suicide bomb and equates it with government scientists making bombs for the White House.

Many people homed in on the first part with little regard for the context of the song. He was repeatedly asked on BBC breakfast television if he was glorifying suicide bombers, and repeatedly he denied it.

"My only weapon is words," he says. "Am I going to do anything beyond that? I don't think I've got it in me to hurt anybody. If I were in Iraq or Lebanon I might feel differently, but [...] I despise bombs, and this is from going to Bosnia, Lebanon and Kashmir, and seeing the effects of the military machine. I think we need to look at things in a balanced way."

Fun-Da-Mental have had a political agenda since they formed in the early Nineties. Nawaz would be seen in NME and Melody Maker with his face bloodied, talking about racist attacks endured when growing up in Bradford, and the rise of right-wing extremist groups such as Combat 18.

He was prepared to face injury for his beliefs. "Fun-Da-Mental was set up on a political platform and without the connection to social and political commentary I would feel half naked. I wouldn't feel I was inspiring anyone. When we did our last album, There Shall Be Love, it was largely non-political, but at least the sleeve was controversial."

Musically the new album is as ferocious and uncompromising as its subject matter. "I have no immigration control on music," he states.

Travelling to Pakistan, he spent a month working with musicians such as the esteemed tabla player Balu. Back in London, Nawaz was working with young South African collective The Mighty Zulu Nation, who appear on two tracks. "Their song 'Bark Like a Dog' is about peaceful protest, but of a sort so loud that it shatters windows and almost demolishes buildings."

He believes that the album tackles oppression of all kinds. "If someone like Steven Spielberg came up to me with a film about the current state of the world, this is the style I would put it in, from anger to despair, and something which relates to people who feel left out of the box of society."

Another deliberately controversial song is "I Reject", which spits out a list of things that Nawaz finds most galling. However, lyrics such as "reject the miniskirt liberation" will cause some concern. "There is an assumption in the West that if you're half-naked then you're free, and therefore a woman who dresses modestly isn't. That's naive. Whatever way they want to dress is fine, but why should you say one is free and one isn't?

"I meet Muslim girls who partied hard, but then decided that it wasn't fulfilling enough and decided to live more modestly. The impression is that they're being oppressed, but [...] they know that they've got a choice."

What seems to drive Nawaz to put himself on the line is his desire to "see the tragedy of human beings". "We went out to Bosnia and saw some terrible things... it was something that should've never happened again. But now it's happening in Afghanistan and Iraq. I always say to Muslims: Listen, we've had Islam here for centuries, and we're still as stupid as we were then. What does it take for us to absorb what the real messages of Islam are?"

The debate as to whether Nawaz is glorifying terrorism will rage on. "I was on Radio 4 with the Conservative MP Michael Gove, who was there to promote his book on the bombings of 7/7. I asked him if his book wasn't also glorifying terrorism? My album wasn't even ready at the time.

"The manufacturers and distributors had pulled out, and then on 30 June this year I had to cancel everything because people were using my music as an intro to coverage of the anniversary of 7 July. So, I cancelled about 100 interviews. People were pleading with me, saying it was more important I speak now. But I told them that I wouldn't play this game, because my son was on his way down to King's Cross that day. He got turned back, but I'd still do the same album because I know where my finger is pointing at."

'All Is War (the benefits of G-Had)' can be downloaded from www.fun-da-mental.co.uk from 7 August; it will be released on the Five Uncivilised Tribes Label this month.

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