Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Trade Union

"Very much in the present is the Bengali group Dishari, singing Trade Union, a rallying cry to fellow Bengali workers to stand together under the Trade Union banner ..." runs Hannah Charlton's sleevenotes to Robert Wyatt's Nothing Can Stop Us collection. Dishari was a group formed by Abdus Salique. He had moved from Bangladesh to the east end of London at the start of the '70s, and was very much a part of a period of change where the Bengali community grew in the area while the Jewish population gradually moved away. In a recurring pattern the Bengalis had to face racism and poverty, but Abdus Salique was among those determined to fight. He became involved in trades union politics, and formed the group Dishari to give a voice to his community which he felt was not being represented in the Labour movement or the arts. Robert Wyatt gave the group the opportunity to record a song as part of a series of 7"s he put out on Rough Trade in the early '80s. The track they recorded was Trade Union, which was a call for Bengali workers in east London to get involved with the Union movement. Significantly, because of the Robert Wyatt/Rough Trade link it was a song heard by an audience outside the Bengali community in and around Brick Lane. In the 40 odd years he has been in London Abdus Salique will have seen major changes in the area, from the race attacks in 1978 and the murder of Altab Ali through to the rebranding as Banglatown and the City's encroachment with its clubs and cafes. He has continued as a business man, becoming chair of the Brick Lane Traders' Association and continuing to speak out about how he feels the Bengali community should be represented. Meanwhile a new generation has its own struggles, and understandably it is more interested in using grime or hip hop to express itself. Among the new generation is Naga, who is very much in the present ... and indeed has performed at the Rough Trade 'superstore' now based in the old but very different East End ...

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