Published May 05, 2014Born in Senegal, raised in Kuwait and now living in Brooklyn, New York, Fatima Al Qadiri's debut album is a thought-provoking melange of cultural references and associations: the album's title is the German word for Asian; the album is conceptualized as a virtual tour through an imagined futuristic China as seen through Western eyes; and the opening track, "Shanzhai (For Shanzhai Biennial)," is a cover of "Nothing Compares 2 U" sung by Helen Feng of FakeMusicMedia, with (apparently) nonsensical Mandarin lyrics.
Said album opener is a red herring, however, as the remainder of Asiatisch is a solid slab of sinogrime — Chinese-inflected grime. The use of Chinese musical scales and library instruments is augmented by Chinese spoken-word poetry on several of the album's tracks. Despite the serious underlying concepts of cultural appropriation and the musical darkness of the grime influence, Asiatisch retains a sense of lightness and humour throughout, evidenced by song titles such as the punning "Loading Beijing" and the lyric "Speak Chinese if you please" in "Dragon Tattoo," a parody of Eastern fetishism and a comment on China's burgeoning political and economic position that has a definite touch of William Gibson to it. The most striking aspect of Asiatisch is the confidence of Al Qadiri's sound, demonstrating that the quality of her music has finally caught up with her artistic ambitions. (Hyperdub)