Junkyard demagogues

On the official Web site of Ming + FS, you’ll find a prominently displayed link for a national youth-voting campaign — and that sort of thing is pretty common these days.

But the quadruple-turntable-toting duo also promises that if you enroll as a Democrat, you’re entitled to a hug from the musicians, redeemable at any concert.

In a recent chat with Xpress, Ming further declared: “If you’re interested in the music we do, you have to understand our music is being censored by [the current administration].”

However, Ming + FS’ self-proclaimed “junkyard” hip-hop — an alloy of drum ‘n’ bass with jazz, world-beat and live instrumentation — is more about sonic tapestry than lyrical content. “Fish Eyes,” from their new CD Back To One (Spun, 2004), is a clear example of the duo’s vision: A prominent beat, an ambient Middle Eastern groove, meditative scratching, scraps of found noise. And lyrics, yes — but the voices come through deeply distorted, audible only as an additional layer of instrumentation.

Still, Ming passionately cites censorship of lyrical content as one reason he and FS are part of the Rock the Vote tour, a collective effort of musicians across the country — acts ranging from Lenny Kravitz and Salt-N-Pepa to Yo-Yo Ma and Dwight Yoakam — aimed at galvanizing young people into turning out on Election Day.

World-beat DJ/producer/multi-instrumentalist Karsh Kale, who’s currently touring with Ming + FS, has his own reasons for encouraging fans to vote out the powers that be. His recently released Liberation (Six Degrees, 2004) is an atmospheric journey into the heart of India as that country is known to, say, an Indian man raised in New York City.

That’s Kale.

Actually, only part of the tabla player’s heritage is Indian — but that’s the part that people first notice. According to Ming, Kale has run into racism while touring.

“He’s been ostracized because of people’s misperceptions since 9/11,” the musician claims, pointing out how a fear of Arab extremists led some people to mistake Sikhs for possible terrorists. And from there it was just a short jump to lashing out at those of Indian descent.

“That’s the effect of our current administration,” Ming continues. “Karsh is focusing on his Asian heritage [in his music], but he’s an American first and foremost.”

Ming should know. He grew up with Kale, the two of them attending the same high school in gritty Hell’s Kitchen and playing in metal bands together.

“He had a huge drum kit and I had a super-loud amp,” Ming recalls.

Of course, neither artist continued down the head-banging path. Ming discovered turntables and started DJ-ing parties while attending recording school in Miami, where he met FS — a jazz and hip-hop fanatic.

But even with his hard-rocking days behind him, Ming and his comrades continue to shout out their message to the masses.

“What’s important is not only that young people are getting out and getting educated,” he declares, “but also that they know it’s OK to vote differently from their parents.”

Ming + FS play a 9:30 p.m. show at Stella Blue (31 Patton Ave.; 236-2424) on Wednesday, Aug. 25. Karsh Kale opens. Tickets cost $12 ($10/advance). For further info, check out www.mingandfs.com.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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