Getting Down in Babel


“The biblical city of Babel has received bad press over the centuries,” notes the press release for Radio Babel, the new album by the band Watcha Clan.

They’re invoking the story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11)–about people who decide to build a tower all the way up to the heavens. God disapproves of this effort and responds by mixing up their languages and spreading the people throughout the earth.

The songs by this Marseille, France-based band are appropriately eclectic, sampling from Balkan brass, Middle Eastern bellydance music, Sephardic folk, and hip-hop. Their repertoire includes a version of the Hanna Szenes song “Eli, Eli” and the classic Shabbat “Tchiri Bim, Tchiri Bom.” The band isn’t just Jewish–they also adapt traditional Muslim songs, and songs of other cultures. Part of it, they say, is breaking down borders. Another part is embracing the cultural confusion that’s already there, making the most of a post-Tower of Babel world.

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