The Azadi Collective

For all their tolerant posturing, rock music fans are just as prejudiced as anyone else. Seeing 50 Cent bottled offstage at Reading, yet Iron Maiden greeted like a lost Nirvana track is enough to question both some people's musical and moral standards.

Maybe there's enough of a social Darwinist in me to suggest white rock and roll has been so popular for so long because it is simply good music. But there's also enough of a realist inside me to suggest that the music fans who have made such a small genre so successful for so long must be doing nothing more than following a trend. It's hard not to think that, after 50 odd years, rock and roll has long had it's day. Of course, proclaiming anything with a beat and a rhyme as the future of modern music is bullshit, but it sure beats heralding another poor Beatles or Pistols copy appearing decades too late. If anything, modern music must be relevant, simply because it is happening NOW.

And there's nothing more original and relevant than the fine styles of teenagers The Azadi Collective. With their debut album 'Still I Believe' out now on Shari Music, a small UK tour, and a few tracks bothering national radio stations, you should probably start believing the hype.

When and why did you form the Collective? Who's in it?
It was formed about 2002 originally with 5 members but now it has grown to a family of 8. The band was formed with the intention of playing music from different creeds and cultures in an ongoing developmental process which is represented by the music on our album.

Just tell us a few of your influences, musical and otherwise.
Musical influences range right across the board, but as a group it would probably be mainly dance and soul. It's hard not to be influenced by other music but we find that a more noticeable influence comes from the people around us and events that occur in our everyday lives. These have more of an impact on our music and provided the basis for songs and lyrics.
Influences have grown over the last few years and it soon becomes clear that it's hard to be completely original in what you do, comparisons are always made with other acts whether they are correct or not.

When Red Pages first saw you they expected a more aggressive hip-hop sound, instead you've more of a more reggae, soul and pop sound than modern hip-hop. How would you describe yourself?
When we are billed as hip-hop people do expect something a bit more commercial or in your face. We mainly play a lot of lo fi leftfield hip hop with a strong soul and reggae influence. Genre isn't something that we think about before we write a song as we find it limits the songs potential. We have a whole range of ways in which we could describe ourselves, (most of our friends would say 'bastards'), but its better just to take a listen as the music speaks for itself as trying to describe what you do and what you play can often put people off or make them less open minded before they listen to the record.
After a show we often get people coming up to us saying 'we never expected it to sound like that'. Looks can be deceiving.

Tell us how you got involved with Shari Music, how does that lead to Radio 1 plays, Budweiser sponsored gigs etc, and has it gone quickly?
They heard us, liked it, now we have an album - simple! They do a lot of the promotional work which is good as we are lazy. Radio 1 have played 2 songs from the album ('Butterflies Wings' & 'I'll See You Soon') which is great, especially as we feared the album was not very radio friendly. Radio play has led to more gigs and exposure. You find that usually one thing leads to another and once the ball starts rolling things start happening very quickly.

Why's the record called 'Still I Dream'?
There is an inner emotion in us all to fulfill our dreams and given time the realization that achieving these dreams may not always be possible. The title reflects that drive in some people who never give up even in the darkest of days.

Do you think it's easier to go places (get signed, radio play etc) if you play 'urban' instead of rock music?
I don't know about it being easier, but I know audience expectations are a lot higher if they are going to watch an urban artist live then perhaps a rock band. We have also found that people seem to give slightly more respect that you are doing something a bit different. Getting can always be hard whatever music you play you just have to be persistent. Radio play may be slightly easier if you are an urban act as there are more shows which play urban music. These shows also attract a greater number of listeners, so in that respect things may be easier.

Is it hard re-creating your studio sound live?
A lot of our songs are straight to record songs which are usually played live at some point which can create problems. Trying to recreate certain sounds live can be a problem. To make this easier we use samplers which are triggered live by our DJ. Since songs are recorded first they usually end up sounding quite different live, sometimes even with new sections and different instrumentation.

Looking around the internet you've had a bit of criticism from people for having the gall to live in Cambridge, and not, for example, in South London. What do you think when you hear things like that?
There has been some criticism in general of acts who don't come form certain areas usually associated with urban music. It doesn't really bother us and is a bit unjustified. Being honest is what it's all about. Our music is about things that have happened to us and things that we can relate to so no one can really accuse us of selling out or being fake.

You don't shy away from confronting political or social issues in your music, which isn't too widespread in popular urban music, probably since Asian Dub Foundation and Public Enemy. How do you mix pop and politics? Would you ever dumb yourself down for commercial success?
Again these are important issues that need to be raised, never underestimate the power of music and the attention paid to it. Pop music and politics have a long history. Many songs have an underlying and subtle message which is only noticeable when listening carefully. Then you get some songs which are very open about the political opinions of the artist. When writing a song the thought of success is never a factor so it the content of the music is never affected by things such as commercial success.

Some silly people are always skeptical about music created mainly by computers rather than instruments, what do you say to them?
All of the album was recorded using computers without which there would be no album. Almost every sound and instrument on the record has either been played or made by ourselves. We use the computer almost as an instrument as it lets us manipulate sounds in ways we would have never have previously thought possible. Computers are the future of music production and those who take a sceptical attitude about this are just missing out.

By Tom King for Red Pages

Go to to see if they've got anymore free promo copies of their record left.

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