Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Rock el Casbah
“Unity is a universal message.”
Backstage at a Clash concert in the early '80's, the young French-Algerian singer Rachid Taha pressed a demo tape of his own mix of punk, rock and middle eastern music into Joe Strummer's hands. Rachid Taha didn't hear back from the Clash. But shortly after their backstage meeting, the Clash's "Rock the Casbah" made it onto vinyl. The song could have been written by Taha. “I like Joe Strummer. We have the same obsession - freedom,” says Rachid. When he heard of Strummer's recent death, Taha recorded his own version of the Clash song: "Rock el Casbah" as a tribute.
Watching video clips during the first Iraq War, Taha heard the Clash song blared by US troops during the short engagement with Iraqi forces. – “I wanted to show that this is not a war song, but much more a peaceful song.”
Rachid Taha’s "Rock El Casbah", sung in Arabic, is a sly cover of the Clash classic and provides a nice entree into the power, intelligence and humor of his own music. Rachid Taha's stance against racism, hypocrisy and nostalgic ghetto complacency, have earned him a fearsome reputation in France, North Africa and the Arabic world.
A cultural figure with powerful views on racism and injustices in French society, his music reflects these tensions and has, in Brian Eno’s words, an energy and confidence arising out of his belief that music can still change the world.
Says Rachid: “I’m a proletarian, I’m of the people… so I’m protesting. For me the music’s a protest. So all my songs are like this because I wanted to stop making metaphors. I said it’s time to speak out now.”
38"x38" oil on linen 1992-2005
Rachid Taha quoted by BBC's 'The World':
"When I hear George Bush, and when I hear Osama bin Laden, I hear two bedouin nomads. The only difference he says, is that one of them is from the desert of Texas and drives an SUV, and the other is from the desert of Saudi Arabia and rides a dromedary." Taha says Bush and bin Laden come from similar well-heeled backgrounds. And both, he says, use a similar fundamentalist rhetoric.
Taha's "Rock el Casbah" is on "Tekitoi" (Who Are You?), Rachid's first album after the September 11 attacks.The title track is sung as a dialogue between a young Frenchman and a young Algerian. They ask each other “Who are you?” This question, Taha says, “is part of the healing process. If you start to recognize that we are the same, then you don’t want to do something bad to someone else.”