Listen: Watcha Clan

On the first listen of the remix for “Goumari”, from Watcha Clan‘s 2008’s Diaspora Hi-FI: A Mediterranean Caravan, the sample of Dawn Penn’s 1994 hit “You Don’t Love Me (No No No)” is so familiar that you wonder what exactly this French quartet is going to bring to the table. Is this simply another product of musical cultural appropriation? However, unlike Rhianna’s recent pneumatic remake of the song, the remix incorporates layers of bhangra and middle-eastern inspired rhythms, using the dancehall track to incorporate a flourish of exotic sounds and textures. It’s suddenly different and unique, exposing the listener to a blend of sounds that while first unfamiliar, suddenly refreshing. Chances are, Penn’s single might be the only track you might recognize on the incredibly diverse album.

With North African, Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew, and French influences paired with drum & bass, dub reggae and flourished with electronica, Watcha Clan (described as “Electro-Balkan hip-hop”) released a collection of Diaspora Hi-Fi remixes, Diaspora Remixed earlier this month. While many musicians have been inspired by global rhythms, what makes the France-based trio (member Soupa Ju recently moved from the an active group member into a management role) unique is how they have fused their individual influences into creating a sound that not only brings a fresh sound to the masses, but an introduction to often-ignored (in North America, anyway) musical styles. from little-regarded countries.

Singer Sista K and MC’s / music samplers Clem and Matt describe themselves as ‘nomads’, frequently travelling across the globe and inspired from the various countries they visit and their individual multi-ethnic backgrounds. With songs in Arabic, Hebrew, Yiddish, French, English and Spanish, early reviews of Diaspora Hi-Fi have noted that the album is almost too diverse, as the liberal use of various musical styles overpowers the listener and lacks focus. But Mariselle, the city where they are based is regarded as one of the most cultural diverse cities in the world and most notably avoided the race riots that plagued other cities in France in 2005 and 2007, and the band, who first emerged on the scene nearly a decade ago, is simply a reflection of their hometown’s multi-ethnic communities.

To many, especially those who associate “World Music” with hippies, Birkenstocks and ill-conceived dreadlocks on white folks, it is easy to dismiss this genre. It’s doesn’t appear on North American radio or video stations, and while the group is a hit in Europe (Diaspora Hi-Fi debuted in the Top 20 on World Music Chart - Europe) their music is only known among listeners who make the effort to seek them out. But despite that, they have found an audience, and the type that will certainly embrace the band when it hits the states this summer.

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