“Barbès is like an antechamber before arriving in the West. It’s a piece of Africa!” says Luis Saldahna of l’Orchestre National de Barbès (ONB). Indeed many African immigrants end up in this multicultural neighbourhood of Paris, where they can find local products and most of all, revitalise.
But Barbès is also the meeting point of the lively Orchestre National who, with Rendez-vous Barbès, throws an invitation out to anyone willing to discover the very eclectic Barbès sound.
Nine years had been necessary to finally see them release their third album, Alik. Many were surprised by the darker rock orientation of the record. Just two years on and a brand new release, we can definitely say that ONB is back!
The band doesn’t waste any time on its latest rendez-vous. “Sidi Yahia-Bnet Paris” starts up with a big beat, heavy bassline and a synth melody in their own unique style.
ONB explores various ambiences, blends genres from reggae-based “Chorfa” to Maghrebi chaâbi of “Jarahtini-Marhba-Jibouhali”, via the gnawa mood of “Laâfou” and its vibrant, bewitching sound of stringed bass lute, gumbri.
Nothing from the North African heritage has been forgotten, as demonstrated by “Denya” that displays a touch of Arabic Andalusian flamenco. If “No No No” reminds of some of Alik’s lighter compositions, the rest constitutes the logical continuation of the group’s previous work done in the 90’s.
However ONB is never short of surprises. The unexpected “Chkoun ?” flirts with a bouncing ska-like beat reinforced with Arabic singing and a dash of French-mannered accordion.
It’s a real journey through the streets of North Paris which is presented here. With this new album, ONB remains as energetic and vivid as ever. Recommended with an Algerian tajine dish followed by a glass of mint tea. Rendez-vous in Barbès!