Fatima’s debut album is called Asiatisch, and as the track titles suggest, the record provides a simulated road trip through an imagined China. Musically, the album is a homage to a quietly influential sub-strain of the UK street/ urban sound known Grime, that is often loosely termed ‘sinogrime’, due to its preoccupation with Asian motifs and melodies. It’s a sound that was originally pioneered by the likes of UK Eski / Grime / Urban producers Wiley and Jammer at the beginning of the 2000s in East London. Though of course Al Qadiri is based in New York and her take is informed as such by this side of the Atlantic as it is the UK.
Asiatisch is a provocation which asks more questions than it answers. The title is the German word for Asian. Unlike its title, however, the music on Asiatisch revolves around the fantasies of east Asia as refracted through pulpy Western pop culture, in particular, Hollywood, literary fiction, music, cartoons and advertising. Fatima asks what is meant by the term ‘Asian’ in a digital age of viral interchange and the hi-speed trading of cultural bytes, the concept of ‘shanzhai’ proves pivotal, a term whose meaning stems from a wild, out of control zone of banditry, but which has come to be used to refer to the Chinese counterfeiting of Western brands and goods.
While ‘sinogrime’ has had many copyists over the last few years, Asiatisch is really the first record that attempts to articulate this weird complex of sonic interchanges between the West and China. With the exception of the opening track, Shanzhai, a haunting cover of Nothing Compares to You with nonsensical Mandarin lyrics, and the shimmering Loading Beijing, Wudang and Jade Stairs which sample & distort classical Chinese poetry staging an epic confrontation between China’s ancient soul and the onslaught of the industrial factory machine, most of the tracks blend mallets, bells, gongs, flutes, steel drums and choral atmospherics with the searing synth-brass and the skittering drums ofGrime, playing melodies that are inflected as much by classic R&B as to synthetic versions of traditional Chinese music. On Dragon Tattoo for example, stereotypical iconography of imagined China is slotted into a threatening, robotic R&B format. The carefree pirating of Western brands blurs into a soft-synth pirating of Chinese musical signs.
Asiatisch is lovingly wrapped in pristine artwork by Babak Radboy from Shanzhai Biennial, and the music was given a 3D sheen by in demand mixer Lexxx. Proclaiming both its love of both ancient and imagined China, Asiatisch is a rare album that is both icily beautiful and conceptually layered.
- Shanzhai (For Shanzhai Biennial) feat Helen Feng
- Loading Bejing
- Hainan Island
- Dragon Tattoo
- Forbidden City
- Shanghai Freeway
- Jade Stars