Reconnecting to listening with Joe Claussell

Kasheme, Zurich Von Steve am

The concept of "listening" is something that is discussed here time and time again and is gaining popularity with the emergence of so-called listening bars. And the idea of a listening session is definitely intriguing. Our author Steve wanted to find out why that is, he went to Kasheme in Zurich to actively listen to Joe Claussell.

Feeling the music: Joe Claussell behind the booth at Kasheme. Photo: Ondrej Kolacek
Feeling the music: Joe Claussell behind the booth at Kasheme. Photo: Ondrej Kolacek

Often confused with hi-fi, listening means the active hearing of music. A good hi-fi system only describes the technology. At best, hi-fi and listening come together, but that is often more wishful thinking. Most of the time, listening bars cannot stand up to the word "listening".

The thought of doing nothing but listening to music for a period of several hours is wonderful but also unsettling. Is my brain stimulated enough so that it doesn't get bored? Do I still have enough attention span? Questions I asked myself before going to the listening session at Kasheme in Zurich. Questions I hoped to answer. And answers I did find.

But all in due course.

First, what makes the idea of a listening session so pleasing to me? I think it's a mix of not taking the time anymore to really listen to music and the sheer amount of music that is available all the time. Even I, a late millennial, remember just lying on my bed listening to the new CDs I picked out at the store and not doing anything else but listening. Who still does this? Music is of course a big part of most peoples life's but with our smartphones always gripping our attention while browsing through updates and videos I think we don't really listen very carefully. Especially not often with friends or even strangers.

That is the reason for me heading down to Kasheme this last weekend. Stepping into the venue you get greeted by the staff and informed what the event is about. In the welcoming Living Room it is just about listening tonight. Even the bar is closed so no noise is made from making cocktails. For those who just want to grab a drink and talk, the Gallery room downstairs is open. The occasion of listening to Joe Claussel in this intimate space this evening made it even more appealing.

A short introduction: Joe Claussell is a renowned American DJ and producer from New York who has been active in the music industry since the 1990s. He is best known for his unique blend of world music, jazz, and soulful house music. Claussell is the founder of the record label Sacred Rhythm Music and he has worked with a diverse range of musicians and has earned a reputation as a masterful selector and curator. Claussell's contributions to the world of dance music have made him a respected figure in the global music community.

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I quickly fetch a drink from the bar before it closed and look for a place to make myself comfortable. At around 7 pm the first record starts playing and the anticipation grows. It takes a while for me to get into it. Just sitting there with other guests just silently listening is kind of odd at first. But tune by tune I calm down, close my eyes and concentrate on the jazz music Joe Claussell starts us off with. After around 30 minutes the crowd kind off reacts for the first time as he plays Chameleon by Herbie Hancock.

Joe Claussell really understands his craft of being a curator. With changing the genre every other track you can feel a building energy in the room. Some people start dancing while others look at each other and smile, being so connected in the moment. It's also interesting to watch Joe Claussell prepare records, play with the isolators on the mixer or just be in the moment with us. There is a real connection between the listeners, Claussell and the music played.

After around an hour Joe Claussell puts on a record with a live extended version of Gil Scott Heron's song named The Bottle with Brian Jackson. After a lengthy drum break and the beat kicking back in the crowd claps and some get up to dance again. A truly beautiful moment to experience.

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Joe Claussell's selection is just so on point and yes I'm fanboying a bit here. Jazz, soul, a little bit of disco back to rap and it never gets boring. Speaking of rap, another tune which got a big reception was Unbelievable by The Notorious B.I.G.

What the experience told me is, that in the end it doesn't matter if you listen on a high-end soundsystem, very good KV2's or at home on your bluetooth speakers. A room full of people consciously listening to the same music creates a wonderful energy to be in. This was definitely not the last listening session I've visited at Kasheme. Or anywhere where it's happening like this.

Words by Steve Marvin. He writes about audiophile nerd stuff and sometimes drops the dad jokes when they are actually funny.