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Chumbawamba

Chumbawamba, originally called The Mirror Boys, were formed in 1983 from two other bands based around the Yorkshire area in the North of England, The Passion Killers and Chimp Eats Banana. Inspired musically by The Fall and the anarchist politics of Crass, Chumbawamba's activities in their early years were based around a communal house in Armley[?], Leeds. Stalwarts of the cassette culture scene, Chumbawamba were at the forefront of the 1980s anarcho-punk movement, frequently playing benefit gigs in squats and small halls for causes such as animal rights, the anti-war movement[?], community groups and so on.


Chumbawamba playing live at Luton Library, May 1985
By the mid 1980s Chumbawamba had progressed to releasing their material using vinyl format on their own Agit-Prop record label. Their first LP, Pictures Of Starving Children Sell Records (1986) was a scathing and articulate critique of the then current Live Aid concert organised by Bob Geldof, which, they argued, was primarily a cosmetic spectacle designed to draw attention away from the real political causes of world hunger. By the late 80s and early 1990s , Chumbawamba (now signed to the larger but still independent One Little Indian[?] record label) had begun to absorb influences from techno music and dance culture[?]. Moving away from their original anarcho-punk roots and evolving a pop sensibility, releases such as Slap (1990) , the sample-heavy Shhh! (1992) (originally intended to be released as Jesus H Christ!, this album had to be withdrawn and re-recorded due to copyright issues) and Anarchy! (1994) lyrically remained as politically uncompromising as ever, continuing to address issues such as homophobia, the Criminal Justice Act[?] and the rise of fascism in the UK following the election of a British National Party candidate in South East London in 1993.

Chumbawamba drew criticism from their original following in 1997 when they signed to the major label EMI, particularly as much of their earlier output had explicitly attacked this corporation, going so far in 1989 to being involved with a compilation LP called Fuck EMI. However, the band argued that this move brought with it the opportunity to communicate their message to a far wider audience, although ironcally their biggest chart hit, "Tubthumping", features what are probably the most apolitical of any of their lyrics. It was also during this period that Chumbawamba gained some degree of notoriety when male vocalist Danbert Nobacon[?] poured a jug of water over politician John Prescott at a music awards ceremony.

Chumbawamba parted from EMI in 2001, and in 2002 released their eleventh official album Readymades, as well as Sic- Adventures In Anti-capitalism, a paperback book of political and musical writings by friends and aquaintances of the band.

See also: Anarchism in the arts, The Ex[?].

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