The biblical city of Babel and its infamous tower have received bad press over the centuries. Imagined as a looming structure built by children in which all residents spoke the same language, the omnipresent God decided to trick humans in order to make them scatter (the word Babel is derived from the Hebrew balal, to "jumble"). Yet if we consider the tower as a prototype radio transmitter, as Marseille, France-based Watcha Clan does on its latest album, Radio Babel (Piranha), the sound of one world singing and dancing together makes perfect sense.
Unlike many other electronic-fueled projects, every member of Watcha Clan can play their instruments well. They employ samplers and drum pads not as crutches but accentuations of the trance-inducing, rhythmically astute rhythms they reproduce on stage. No album to date has highlighted this as beautifully as Radio Babel. Previously the band felt like two: a studio project that pumped out itinerant folklore in a digital age, and a wonderful live band that triggered kick drums as quickly as clanked karkabous. This new record is the perfect fusion of these two entities.
On Radio Babel, the electronics have taken a slight backseat to more mature and fuller songwriting. Kouti and K's harmonizing on the Tuareg-drenched "Hasnaduro" is yet another example of cultural convergence. Pulling from the great surge in Malian desert music via Tinariwen and Toumast, Watcha Clan injects a hearty dose of electric guitars, ululations and North African percussion, including the low register of the bass-like gumbri, into this throbbing dance song. Perhaps the most inventive song, however, is the band's take on the 17th century Hebrew poem by Rabbi Shalom Shabazi, "Im Nin'alu," most famously covered by Israeli great Ofra Haza.
Whatever sound these nomadic souls travel through, you can be certain that Watcha Clan will accomplish what great artists do: highlight the similarities between cultures through music, i....... więcej