Rachid Taha Rocks the Casbah in Amman

See a video clip here..
Call it rock, call it punk, call it Rai. I call it an amazing clash! Rachid Taha’s concert in Amman yesterday night was amazing. The house (Al Hussein Cultural Center) was chock full. The light went down and the band moved onto the stage. The lute (or is it a ‘mandolute’) player greeted the crowd with “Salamu Alaikum’!

A few minutes into the first song Rachid Taha appeared on stage, among lud cheers from the crowd.
Rachid and his band of accomplished performers were delivering a show of pure energy, starting with some of his louder songs overlaid with his trademark harsh vocals. Within minutes, a crowd of guys holding Algerian and Moroccan flags thrust forward to the stage, dancing wildly.

Predictably, the audience rose to its feet when, near the middle of the show, ‘Ya Rayah’ came along. Considering that this was an Ammani audience, this more melodic and accessible song was what people were waiting for. They got what they want. What followed was an explosive electro-punk version of ‘Ya Rayah’ which totally contrasted the Arabic feel of the original.

Contrasts, layering, clash and collision is what this music is about: The flowing Arabic melodies of the lute in dialogue/clash with the harsh urban sound of the electric guitar riffs. The samples of oriental tunes intermix with the synth beats. The tabla and daff rhythm intertwines with the rocking drum kit. All of it held together by the energy of the performers and Rachid’s singing (or anti-singing if you look at it from the traditional Arab ‘tarab’ perspective. What a fusion!

What was noticable was the charged political content of some of the songs. In ‘Hasbuhum’ the two word chorus simply says ‘nahhuhum, hasbuhum!’ (which translates in ‘oust them..hold them accountable) or ‘oust them..enough’). He’s talking about “the lairs, the racists, the unjust, the killers, the corrupt”..

One of the highlights of the show was ‘Safi’ (Pure), also a politically inspired song. The crowd sang along the chorus: “Ana galbi safi” (my heart in pure..).

It’s worth mentioning that the event was presented by the French Cultural Center in Amman. The center has a good track record in bringing contemporary music to Amman. Some years ago I remember going to a concert by Zebda, another Rai/Rock/Fusion outfit from France.

Another ‘interesting aspect’ was the total lack of security check at the door. In this respect, Amman has really changed over the past few years. There’s more security presence these days. So not going through some metal detector showed a really relaxed French attitude.

Oh.. did I mention that the ticket was only 5 JDs (one class).

The sound could have been better (especially where I was sitting). But hey.. Great show.!

UPDATE: I just found an interesting article in the New York Times, published just a few days ago. Gives very interesting insights into Rachid’s political attitude and music. Really worth reading.

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2 Responses to “Rachid Taha Rocks the Casbah in Amman”

  1. Hamuksha Says:

    Thanks for the lively report, I enjoyed his following concert in Egypt at Cairo Opera House on Sat. 19 March.

  2. Reyes Says:

    Marhaba Ahmad!
    Thank you for this review. I wish I could have been there! I only speak very basic Arabic and would love to know the lyrics of Rock the casbah… (I understand that Rachid’s lyrics are very different from the original version by the Clash) ....i have search the web for a transcript, but with no luck. Could you translate some of it… just to get a taste? Shukran!

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