Nomada EP, Waya Waya
by Blanca Méndez
In the short span of three not-so-short songs, the Waya Waya kids definitely lived up to the name of their EP. Employing styles and instruments from all over the globe, the Aguascalientes-based duo takes us on a journey to tropical locales, a multi-continent safari of sorts. But instead of being on the lookout for lions, zebras, and the elusive leopard, you have to keep an ear out for the myriad instruments that populate the soundscape.
The title track begins demurely, with a simple, subtle beat. The song quickly grows with the addition of more involved beats and vocal distortion that sounds as if it’s emanating from a bullhorn or loudspeaker, then later takes on an aquatic quality, as if submerged in a swimming pool. With the entrance of the creature calls, the song becomes eerie and slightly threatening. Envision a tamarin swinging from tree branches above, out of sight in the jungle canopy, issuing calls akin to laughter. That monkey is messing with you! The anxiety that this creates is oddly enjoyable and makes “Nomada” the best song on the EP.
“Dasi” and “Zulu” are both very overt in their African influences, and while Waya Waya should be commended for their exploration of these influences, they don’t quite manage to avoid the appropriation sound. When one is so far removed from a culture and its music, it’s difficult to borrow from that culture in truly interesting and innovative ways. But it can be done. Bands like Rainbow Arabia do the globetrotting electronic music thing expertly, and Waya Waya could learn from them. On “Dasi,” the vocals are in an African language that I cannot distinguish because the extent of my knowledge of African languages is knowing how to say “hi” in Xhosa. The vocals here sound like one phrase being repeated in something of a chant that has a spiritual feel to it. After the introduction with the vocals, the song continues in its repetitiveness with a short phrase of beats on loop for what seems like an eternity, then at the end, the song becomes more layered and involved, its density more satisfying. Had the vocals been better integrated into the song and had the song developed at a quicker pace, it may not have been so disjointed and tedious. And that is one of the main issues of the EP. The songs are far too long. Had the length been necessary for the development of a story or theme, it would not have been a problem. But with drawn out sections of the same series of sounds over and over (which is good for zoning out, if that’s your goal), Waya Waya lost my attention.
If you’ve ever been on safari in southern Africa, you know that one of the highlights is watching the sunset over the savanna. There are few things in this world as breathtaking. The stillness of that lingering in between moment is almost frightening. The sun burns low in the sky and bathes the entire landscape in a warm shade of red orange, as if warning you to seek cover before the last sliver of light dissipates. I was waiting for the musical equivalent of this magical moment on Nomada, but it never came. A couple of times I was almost certain that the sunset over the savanna, looming danger moment was coming, when the beats became subdued and repetitive, almost lulling and an explosion of sound was imminent. My anticipation was for naught, though. There was no calm before the storm, it was more calm before slightly less calm. That’s not to say that the EP was a total loss, it definitely approached the threshold of magical quite a few times with its bold mix of styles and tones, but unfortunately never crossed that threshold.
Nomada EP, Waya Waya