Radio Babel — Watcha Clan

No one could accuse musical outfit Watcha Clan and their new album Radio Babel of lacking cultural awareness. The Marseille-based band pride themselves on their magnitude of musical influences, ranging from the indigenous music of Morocco, Algeria, the Balkans, Turkey and France.

One reason for the multitude of far away sounds is the multicultural cast including front-woman Sista K, the daughter of a Jewish-Polish mother and a Berber freedom fighter of a father. Joining the sassy singer are other members who originate from the French Alps, the island of Corsica and Algeria.

With such a spectrum of musical styles, Watcha Clan create a sound that is infused with electronic dance, trip-hop and trance and also makes room for the traditional tones of Sephardic folk and Balkan brass bands. Although their previously released albums Diaspora Hi-Fi in 2008 and follow up Diaspora Remixed gained the masses attention, the band believe that Radio Babel truly represents the perfect fusion of the band as a studio recording project and a live band that triggers kick drums as quick as a piranha’s jaw.

Radio Babel represents a step in the right direction for Watcha Clan, providing a much more mature fusion of styles than previous musical repertoire. Saying that, they tread a fine line between a delightful amalgamation of cultures and an overwhelming sense of a sounds that at times, do not compliment one another. “Hasnaduro” with its chorus of gnawa-trance rhythm, electronic synth, electric guitar riffs and euro-pop-like craziness sometimes feels too much for the ears. However, the rest of the track, with the bass-like gumbri and North African percussion is a definite foot-stomping delight. “Im Nin’alu” (featuring Merlin Shepherd on clarinet and duduk) provides a great arrangement of a 17th century Hebrew poem, previously covered by the late Israeli singer Ofra Haza. Many other tracks include guest musicians, including Balkan brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia on “Gypsy Dust”, Arab-Andulasian painist Maurice el Medioni in the wonderful ‘Viens, Viens’ and not forgetting oud virtuoso Mehdi Haddab from Speed Caravan in “Fever is Rising”.

Released on Piranha records, Watcha Clan’s Radio Babel also comes with a mini-documentary, complimenting the track “We are One” that focuses on Mexican-Amercian border issues, emphasising the foursomes awareness of contemporary socio-political issues. Similar to festival-loving acts as Afro Celt Sound System and Mr Scruff, this album is well-worth a listen. However, expect to be globally transported into audio bliss and at times completely lost.

By Amy Cunningham

Artist: Radio Babel
Album: Watch Clan
Record Label: Piranha Records
Release Date: 18 February 2011

Radio Babel is available to buy at Amazon and iTunes

Im Nin’Alu by Watcha Clan

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