With 'La Clé', Walloon band Babelsouk provides us with an excellent sequel to their 2016 debut effort 'Charlykingston'.
Translated from Arabic, Babelsouk means something like "the gate of the souk", and to open a gate you need a key which explains the title of this new album.
In our review of 'Charlykingston' we still compared the band with French formation Dub Inc or the Algerian-French Gnawa Diffusion, but on 'La Clé' the Maghrebi influences were scaled down somewhat, with some songs rather reminding us of the repertoire of Pierpoljak (opener and title track 'La Clé', in which the band plays me all kinds of expressions and proverbs in which the word "clé" is used, 'Soif De Justice'), and others been given a French ragga vibe. Exceptions in the track list are 'Avec Ou Sans', for which Babelsouk goes hip-hop and keyboardist Dejan 'Alibih' Jahic shows himself to be a skilled rapper, and 'Oui Je Sais', a combination tune with Jahjahman for which the band experimented with dubstep.
In their lyrics, Babelsouk still cry out their indignation about subjects like the growing indifference towards everything to do with the so-called third world ('Allo'), crimes against humanity like the atomic bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the massacres in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon, the genocide in Rwanda and the genocide of the Native American population ('Soif De Justice'), the constant influx of lies imposed on us by politicians, multinationals and the media ('Appel À L'aide'), to slavery and drugs and migration issues in 'Oui Je Sais'. At the same time, the band asks to keep an optimistic outlook on things (the aforementioned 'Oui Je Sais'), opting for action instead of inertia ('Action') and getting ready for the battle ahead ('Wake Up', Peuple D'aujourd'hui').
Musically the band has clearly evolved, something we can only applaud, and for 'La Clé' they were also joined by the horn section of their fellow townsmen from Los Petardos.
For 'La Clé' a number of the band's older songs were given a revamp. 'Bledi' was already featured on the 'C'est Babelsouk Sound System' EP, a solo project by Babelsouk vocalist Isaac Essannarhi aka KLM back in 2008, but re-recorded for the new album featuring the horn section of Los Petardos. Closing track 'Peuple D'Aujourd'hui' was also included on 'Charlykingston', then featuring Coto La Selecta and Lamino La Selecta as vocal guests, but for the version on 'La Clé', Babelsouk went "five the hard way" and invited Atomic Spliff, Martiniquais Natty Gregh, reggae artist SK from Hirsson in northern France and Sir Samuel from the French rap formation Saïan Supa Crew.
Other vocal guests on 'La Clé' are the aforementioned Jahjahman and Cam, front man of French band Ryon, who can be heard in 'Wake Up'.
Excellent release by a band that has clearly continued to evolve since 2016. More of this!