"With Asian Dub Foundation live soundtrack Sydney Festival January 2004"
The only other time I have witnessed a live score to a movie was when The Blue Grassy Knoll played their soundtrack to the Buster Keaton movies One Week and Our Hospitality on the Opera House Forecourt a number of years ago. This worked well and was highly entertaining but the combination of the intense French cult classic La Haine and one of England’s most politically angry bands promised to be a different kettle of fish altogether - and it was.For those unfamiliar with the film, La Haine (Hate) is a low budget, black and white movie that focuses on a day in the lives of three young men who live in a deprived, tenement block area of Paris. Each of different racial heritage but of equal class, they meander somewhat aimlessly through the streets that have been trashed by the rioting of the night before. A conflict during the riots has left a neighbourhood kid in a coma and it is reported that a police officer’s revolver was also stolen during the clashes. It is a hard edged film with a harrowing climax that leaves a deep impact. So much so that on the film’s release, a French government minister insisted it be shown to his entire cabinet in order for them to understand what was happening on the outskirts of their city. It also won Mathieu Kassovitz the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995.
Asian Dub Foundation formed in London during the early 90s through a community workshop. Originally they formed fuelled by anger generated by racial violence and the election of a fascist councillor in East London. Ten years on they still have a reputation of being one of England’s last politically aggressive bands. Mixing a vast array of styles including drum’n’bass, hip-hop, ragga, dub and traditional ethnic rhythms, they are also one of the most unique sounding acts in the music scene today. There is no band more suited to provide a live soundtrack to the hostile and socially aware film that is La Haine.
The film opens with various riot scenes to which ADF provided a thunderous drum’n’bass track that rolled right along with the action on the screen. Once the dialogue started the live soundtrack performance did take a little getting used to because it was hard to watch both the band and the screen at the same time. But after 15 minutes or so the film took priority and ADF’s score blended in, becoming one with the movie. ADF are normally a band that jump around the stage with an energy that is contagious to their audiences but tonight they were very still, reading off music sheets and concentrating on what was happening on the screen - which is a good thing otherwise they would have taken some attention away from the movie.
They also refrained from using any vocals, preferring to let the movie voice their anger. La Haine’s original soundtrack was relatively sparse leaving a blank canvas for ADF to weave their infectious grooves throughout. At times it was minimalist sampled and sequenced background trip-hop and dub but then an argument would break out or a chase would ensue and the whole band would kick in raising these scenes to a new level of intensity. When the credits rolled the band showed signs of relief that they had made it through to the end. Looking more relaxed, they blasted through an instrumental version of the song “La Haine” from their latest album “Enemy of the Enemy”. The audience reaction was huge with a long lasting applause that the band genuinely appreciated.
La Haine proved to be the perfect vehicle for ADF’s particular breed of disgruntled urban street rhythms. They have succeeded in making an already powerful movie even more intense through a carefully orchestrated score which, performed live, is an unforgettable experience.Director, Mathieu Kassovitz, witnessed a performance in London and was reported to be jumping around in his chair. He enjoyed it so much he has since approached ADF to record their version as an option on a 10th year anniversary DVD for release in 2005.