I’ve been listening to quite a lot of what you might call ethnic music in the last few months, and while that’s not exactly ground breaking, I sometimes stop and wonder if it's normal. Have I gone far too deep down into a rabbit hole that only tunes can bring me back out again? It can't only be me who sits there on their own listening to the weirdest shit. I sometimes catch myself in trance, zoned in on an article on email and think "wtf am I listening to?"
Yet other times, it awakens something more acute or lively in my ear and makes me reengage in what i'm listening to, which I find is a massive attribute in a mix, particularly when things might've gone a little flat. Though is there a line too far? Are DJ's going out of their way now to find the weirdest shit, just to seem unique or culturally diverse? Do crowds want to hear these far flung, newly found favourites that DJ's are playing, or do they just want the normal genres they've been listening to since day one?
It’s weird. We, and I say 'We' as a twenty-something red-headed white Brit, have always been accustomed to listening to tunes from other cultures (bluegrass blues, opera, flamenco, for example), as we greatly appreciate the narrative and heritage behind the music. Yet, what I mean here is when it’s properly diverse or distinctly different from your own culture. Is that normal? Picture, ginger pasty Northern bloke sat in a dressing gown with a brew listening to spliff-heavy ragga. Doesn't quite fit eh? Same goes for all those 8 year olds singing about smelling bed sheets. Good one, cheers Ed.
For me though, there’s sometimes an odd paranoia that you’re in a little deeper than you’d expect in a genre, there comes an assumption that you're now some kind of Mr Dick Head Diverse who’s swapped guitars for sitars or bass for bassoon. Often when this happens, I stick my age-old iTunes on shuffle and relive a past life of acoustic twangs or forlorn female vocals to remind me that i'm not a twat and I do actually like proper music still. At least sometimes, anyway.
Thing is, I find it’s these stark differences in musical cultures really inspire another level of depth or hegemonic change, even in the charts – think the Beatles’ in India or more recently the Arctic Monkey’s over in the US. Even, dare I say it, Ed's Galway Girl. Their music gained an alternate and often elevated depth that offers a stand out sound to other artists.
However when playing at Amsterdam’s Generator Hostel last month, I was a little nervous about dropping a few tunes that include this shamanic, cultural theme. Or even a Nicholas Jaar tune with Spanish vocals. But why?
At ADE Sam and I went to Westernunie to Garden’s of Babylon to see the likes of Kora, YokoO, Behrouz and Satori, where these kind of tunes were being churned out to the crowd's content. Thing is, the crowd was incensed with a happy hippy yet techno atmosphere; tarot readings, massages, vintage stores and love and listen style messages were plastered everywhere so this kind of music went down a treat. The general atmosphere was as if you’d entered some kind of Sixties forest yet with ambient techno instead of psychedelic rock. It was immense.
Yet at the Generator, you get some 2 goofy white kids playing hispanic house or Indian-infused techno! We played a few tunes similar to the guys at Garden's of Babylon, yet to a crowd that was vastly different – lone travellers on Macs, family’s eating pizza and L-A-D-S pre-drinking in the hostel before hitting AMS hard (well, i’d assume).
The thing is though, it worked. People were bopping, phones were Shazaming and we got a few compliments
One of the artists I played was a new guy I’ve come across of late is a Parisian producer called Sahalé. He’s on Bandcamp and his discography is immense, though ensure you run it through Rekordbox if you’re going to play any of his tracks out out.
His deep house, shamanic techno backlog ranges from slow and steady thought provokers through to upbeat floor fillers. One of my favourites is Middle Eastern Promises, which rises from a low deep bass and into a galloping beat that errs on the Chemical Brother’s Hey Boy Hey Girl. Check them both via the links, see if you get what I mean.
Available for as little as $1, Sahalé’s latest tune Avapaje is one of the slower, more ambient builders that focuses a little more on your conventional, often heard instruments (pianos, maracas and whatnot) yet still keeps it’s ethnic euphoria via the use of voilin strings and Salah-style vocals. It reminds me of a deep house version of something curated by composer Armand Amar (the guy behind the scores for Human and Belle and Sebastian).
Sahalé's not posted Avapaje on Soundcloud and I don't know how to embed from Bandcamp, so you can check via the link below. It’s very chilled, thought provoking and perfect to listen to at your desk when working away or as a break in a more celestial set. Well, in my opinion anyway.
You can also catch Sahalé supporting Behrouz at Paris' Buddha Bar on the 2nd of February. See here for a link, tickets are pretty cheap at the mo too and are on 1st release.
What do you think? Dare you to blare it out over the office speakers.
Anyway, enjoy and thank you Mr Sahalé and see you in Paris.