I don't listen to lots of Arabian music. And I don't know a lot of punk bands that use it in their music. Maybe Gogol Bordello, maybe Mano Negra. But mixing styles is N&SK's speciality. They have a ska base, with the upstrokes and horns, but mix in it lots of punk, reggae, hardcore, metal, jazz, Arabian music, circus music and French "chanson."
Born in 1993 in Nice, N&SK quickly grew as a huge concert machine. Taking in hundreds of shows, the band toured Europe for four years before recording their first CD, Haroum Tchakha Pômh, under the band name Les Nomades. In 2000, N&SK brought a little gem to the French rock scene: [ kosmopolit ]. With nine members (vocals, two violinists, one accordionist, a guitarist, a bassist, a trombone player, a trumpet player and a drummer/DJ), the band throw in huge energy and skilled musicianship to make N&SK one of the best bands in the French scene (and European one for that matter).
Le Cirque du Millenium is great. It's a melting pot of music styles and politics, but it all comes out very well. Taking influences from bands like La Ruda Salska, Wampas, the Burning Heads and Uncommonmenfrommars, the band has brought in more rock. The CD starts off with the title track, with swinging circus-like music and a distorted guitar that comes in. The song acts more like an intro to the CD, speaking of clowns and the circus as a whole.
Highlights include "Peu Importe," a calm straight-up ska song where you notice how well violins and an accordion fits in with the rock. "La Meute et le Troupeau" is a violin-driven, upbeat song speaking of how people should stand out. "Je Koue" is easily the best song of the record, showing a calm side of N&SK as it starts of with some great singing, drums and a nice flowing bass. The guitar steps in with some good upstrokes and then the whole band gets in it. The lyrics are also great, but for that, you have to speak French and Arabic.
Next up is "Proverbe," another great upbeat ska song denouncing the way humans treat nature. And Half Pint (I think it's him) comes in to make some great toasting. "Ailleur" is a great accordion-led rolling song with a great chorus in Arabic. "Ekeur" is a good funk/metal-inspired song which is also sung in Arabic.
The band's most famous song, "Kangourou Nomade," then sets in and it's one of those songs that you absolutely want to hear live. With a great driving band line and upstroke guitars, it'll just make you jump around and sing the "Jump! Jump! Jump!" lines that come in just before the chorus sets in. At the end of the song comes one of the best moments of the album, when Kaï sings: "Le kangourou nomade est un monstre imaginaire, nés de l'alchimie d'un soir de concert, quand toi, public, rassemblé de personnes, écrase les idées noires en sautant comme un seule homme!" ("the travelling kangaroo is an imaginary monster, born in the alchemy of a concert night, when you, public, destroy dark ideas by jumping as one!") over a dub-like background of bass and drums. And then the hardcore guitar sets in and hell, that's the one thing I'd like to hear before I die. The last song, "Souviens-toi," is a great rock song speaking of the immigrants' struggle to identify themselves as French or as Moroccan (or Algerian, Ghanian, or whatever).
All in all, this is a great CD. Even if you don't speak French or aren't used to hearing violins in your punk/ska music, give this a try. You can listen to some of the songs on their website, so DO it.