Courtesy of the artist
Watcha Clan's "Hasnaduro" provides a perfect get-on-the-dance-floor moment for every culture imaginable.
Watcha Clan's "Hasnaduro" provides a perfect get-on-the-dance-floor moment for every culture imaginable. Courtesy of the artist
Artist: Watcha Clan
CD: Radio Babel
Watcha Clan might be the ultimate summer band: full of good-time bounce and hazy, we-are-the-world unity. It's easy to picture the group whirling about on an outdoor stage in clouds of patchouli, hemp scarves fluttering in the breeze. And, it must be said, its albums in past years tended to lack, well, a certain focus.
The band's latest, Radio Babel, has gotten smarter. There's still an interlaying of electronic burbles, earthy acoustic instruments and a lyrical patchwork that drifts between Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, Yiddish, Tamashek, French and English, but it's much tighter and more methodical in its multicultural madness.
Based in the French port city of Marseille — which for millennia has mixed French, Jewish, North African, Greek, Italian and sub-Saharan cultures — Watcha Clan embraces a pan-Mediterranean musical mix in an overt celebration of cosmopolitanism. The core band consists of vocalist/dancer Sista K; Suprem Clem, navigating the laptop and sampling, as well as keyboard and accordion; vocalist and guitarist Nassim, who also plays the three-stringed, plucked North African guimbri; and Matt Labesse on double bass and guitar. But it's not a Watcha Clan party until the band brings in an imaginative array of guest artists, and the Radio Babel revelers include the incredible gypsy brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia and Oran-born pianist Maurice El Medioni.
When Watcha Clan sticks to partying, it really soars. A perfect example, "Hasnaduro," leans heavily on the earthy sound of the guimbri and the deep groove of Touareg guitar bands like Tinariwen and all their abundant musical offspring. The words come from a Touareg-language (Tamashek) traditional wedding song — nuptials, of course, providing the perfect get-on-the-dance-floor moment for every culture imaginable. Don't overthink Watcha Clan's globalist politics. Instead, it's best to just dance yourself silly.