Exploring Melt Yourself Down's Multi-Faceted Identity
Jazz was never meant to be linear music.
A sound in perpetual revolution, it has thrived by continually moving outside the boundaries, absorbing fresh influences from disparate sources.
Melt Yourself Down have devoted themselves to side-stepping expectations. A London based group who embrace jazz, electronics, punk, and more, their outrageous noise is explicitly connected to the context it is created in.
Recently signing to Decca, the group recently played a packed out show at London's Lexington venue, unveiling new material in the process.
New single 'Boot And Spleen' is online now, a song that references Britain's Imperial legacy, and the violence it impinged on the world.
But Melt Yourself Down are also able to find inspiration in the people that surround them, in London's complex array of global diasporas, working together to create fresh communities.
The band's Kush Gaya writes for Clash.
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A search for identity. Defining and understanding it, but with the ultimate desire of annihilating and dissolving that same identity. These are the main sources of inspiration behind writing 'Boot And Spleen'.
My family migrated from India to what would become the multi-cultural, racial and religious Mauritius during the late 1800’s. I then left the island in 2000 to re-settle in the U.K . For the first 17 years of my life I spoke and was educated in French and Creole - by then, my foremothers’ Hindi, Bhojpuri and Sanskrit had long been forgotten.
Only the sounds of these ancestral languages remained in my memory, only their feeling and impressions stayed with me, as well as popular Bollywood melodies and a few very exciting insults traded with my cousins as a child!
I have since lived in Nottingham, Bristol and London where English has become my default language. Through living in different countries and by using different languages for prolonged periods of time, the question of identity has become a persistent and very important one for me. This feeling has also been exacerbated by living in 2019 pre-Brexit Britain and observing all the political turmoil and upheaval that such an exercise in uprooting is causing...
More than ever, and beyond the prospect of our geographical and economical borders being altered, Brexit seems to be the heart and soul of a national conversation about identity. It is within this context that I have posed the following questions: how do I relate to British society now? And more introspectively, how do I relate to myself in 2019 Britain?
In an attempt to find some answers to those questions, I have explored quite a few sources, but two strongly resonated with me and brought me closer to clarity. Inglorious Empire by Sashi Tharoor and the documentary Schooling The World were pivotal in writing the song 'Boot And Spleen'.
Tharoor’s book is a tour de force in that it is incredibly detailed, well researched, full of referenced information and analyses violent historical events, economic trickery as well as officially sanctioned criminal behaviours, which gave, what he calls the ‘Brutish Raj', the upper hand in India, and thus initiating the steep decline of an otherwise incredibly prosperous country. Indeed, we learn that, pre-colonisation, India’s share of the world’s economy amounted to about 30% and fell to only 3% after the independence.
In addition, this book goes further in restoring self-esteem and a certain level of pride in readers being part of the Indian diaspora. It pulverises many of the prejudices and the bigotry bestowed upon us throughout the years. Indians did not always suffer famines, run corner shops, or the local high street accountancy firm.
Indeed, amongst other milestones, it is from the peninsula that mathematics met with a revolution with the invention of the zero and it is by the same civilisation that the game of chess was developed. The begging bowl was forcibly and progressively bestowed upon India during a ruthless exploitation lasting about 330 years.
Tharoor describes the 'Boot And Spleen' as an example of the rampant injustice and double standards prevailing during colonial times. He writes that ‘’Indians suffered from enlarged spleens because of malaria […]; when a British master kicked a native servant in the stomach, which was common practice, the Indian’s spleen would rupture causing death’’. The culprit would generally get away with such behaviours with only a slap on the wrist and a light reprimand.
As an immigrant in the U.K, I have often extrapolated those long-forgotten events and reframed them into our modern context whilst asking myself if it is just a matter of time until the British ‘societal boot’ reaches near my very own spleen... I do equate, maybe unfairly, the violence of the ‘Boot And Spleen' to the violence of Brexit, a brutal uprooting negating diversity, plurality and multiculturality.
We are shooting ourselves in the foot with the potential cultural destruction ready to happen in the next few months. It is diversity and multiculturality, that has made the U.K and especially London so attractive to people from all walks of life and creed. London is one of the only cities in the world where unlikely pairings are regularly celebrated and encouraged by institutions.
It is difficult to imagine where else a band like Melt Yourself Down would have been able to find a base to evolve from. Ironically, it is also thanks to the culture of laissez-faire and the celebration of difference on its territory that the U.K has fulfilled its capitalist and economic liberalist agenda. Indeed, for better or for worse shall we say, cultural innovations and movements are what precisely attract tourism, investors and money into the country...
Finally, and from a culinary point of view where else in Europe would you be able to eat Trinidadian and Mauritian Dhal Puris, Ethiopian Injera, Sunday Roasts, Jerk Chicken Rice 'n' Peas and Pierogis all within a two mile radius? Maybe I am not well travelled enough, but I struggle to think.
We are living in a time where a new British national identity is desperately trying to emerge. It is doing so kicking and screaming because change is difficult, and because a culture of fear of 'The Other' is being encouraged by unscrupulous forces.
In reality, a new U.K with a brand-new identity is busy being born, and we would be foolish denying its blossom.
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