French band Watcha Clan will be performing at Rich Mix in London on Tuesday, March 15th at Rich Mix in London.
Watcha Clan has always exhibited a visionary spiritual eclecticism in its sound, stretching from Gnawa trance and drum ‘n’ bass to hip-hop, Balkan brass and Sephardic folk, with thriving bass-heavy pulsations countered by Sista K’s show-stopping vocals and their latest album Radio Babel is predominantly concerned with destroying boundaries everywhere.
Marseille-based Watcha Clan will presenting its latest album, Radio Babel “We want to be understood by everyone,” says charismatic vocalist Sista K. “Singing in different languages is the first step in cultural integration, especially expressing the message in English, the international language. With Radio Babel the message goes with the music, and also with the words. Music has the power to pass through any border.”
Sista K was born to an Ashkenazi Jewish Polish mother and a Sephardic Jewish Berber father, an Algerian independence fighter who was French before he was born (a 1870 decree gave French nationality to the Jewish population of Algeria). Her parents met in Israel but Sista K was born in the Bonne Mère district of the Southern French city of Marseille. “Back then,” she says, “in the northern quarters of Marseille, no-one cared about who was Jewish and who was Muslim. We all lived together, and life was always stimulating.” As well as being influenced by the sounds and people of Marseilles, the melting pot of France and one of the oldest cradles of Mediterranean culture, the cosmopolitan singer took inspiration from the Eastern European melodies her mother sang to her when she was little.
Joined by a multi-cultural cast featuring producer/keyboardist Suprem Clem from the French Alps, bassist Matt Labesse from the island of Corsica, and vocalist/guitarist Nassim Kouti from Oran in Algeria, connecting the European and Middle Eastern worlds has been the band’s calling card for a decade. radio Babel is their clarion call to watching the walls, both concrete and abstract, tumble down.
While the band’s powerful live instrumentation touched with electronic textures includes the indigenous music of Morocco, Algeria, Israel, Spain, the Balkans, Turkey and France, radio Babel is predominantly concerned with destroying boundaries everywhere. The first video, a mini-documentary focusing on Mexican-American border issues, is set to the song “We Are One,” and features interviews with migrant workers and farmers.
Finding an international fanbase with 2008’s Diaspora Hi-Fi: A Mediterranean Caravan, the following year’s Diaspora Remixed included remixes by newfound friends across the planet, creating an even broader sound which is found in the new recording. Watcha Clan has always exhibited a visionary spiritual eclecticism in its sound, stretching from Gnawa trance and drum’n’bass to hip-hop, Balkan brass and Sephardic folk, with thriving bass-heavy pulsations countered by Sista K’s show-stopping vocals.
Unlike many other electronic-fueled projects, every member of Watcha Clan is a master at their instruments. 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 karkabas.
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 is the band’s take on the 17th century Hebrew poem by Rabbi Shalom Shabazi, “Im Nin’alu,” (featuring Merlin Sherpherd on clarinet and duduk) – of course most famously covered by the late great Israeli singer Ofra Haza. The album also features a number of other guests such as Balkan Brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia (on “Gypsy Dust”), Arab-Andalusian pianist Maurice el Medioni (on “Viens, Viens”) and oud virtuoso Mehdi Haddab from Speed Caravan (on “Fever is Rising”).
Watcha Clan highlights the similarities between cultures through music, instead of complaining about the differences. With support from DJ U-Cef
- In North America: Diaspora Hi-Fi: A Mediterranean Caravan, Radio Babel, Le Bastion, Live Injection: Bastion Tour 2006, Nomades a.K.a, Live Au Cabaret Rouge
- In Europe: Diaspora Hi-Fi: Mediterranean Caravan, Radio Babel, Live Injection: Bastion Tour 2006
7:30 pm, Tuesday, March 15th
7.30pm / Bar / £7 adv / £10 door
35 – 47 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6LA
020 7613 7498
Author: World Music Central News Department
World music news from the editors at World Music Central