Socialist Worker

A loud and rebellious compilation dedicated to Joe Strummer

by Jinan Coulter
Issue No. 1934

Joe Strummer

Joe Strummer

Rock the Kasbah
Various artists

Rock the Kasbah is an album dedicated to the late Joe Strummer, frontman of The Clash — one of the greatest political punk bands of the 1970s and 1980s. Strummer originally wrote the song of the same title upon hearing about the censorship of music in Iran by clerics.

The album brings together a blend of musical histories that each deal with the experiences of alienation, oppression, exile, war and struggle.

It features some of the most popular Arab and Asian musicians around today. These include Rachid Taha, Cheb Mami, Ilham Al Madfai along with groups like Fun>da>mental and Asian Dub Foundation.

The album merges sounds and influences from East and West, and stretches the boundaries of musical experimentation by fusing traditional folk songs and classical styles with the popular.

Rachid Taha’s opening track “Rock El Casbah” merges Algerian rai sounds with the famous punk classic. “Lela” brings together the popular Egyptian musical innovator Hakim, who mixes Arabic melodies with urban beats, alongside the legendary James Brown.

Brown even signs off in Arabic with a loud “Salam alaykum!” The album also includes “Baghdad”, a nostalgic ballad with an intermittent contemporary beat, produced by Transglobal Underground, and “Belong”, a moody track from a Beirut-based group who lived through the Lebanese civil war.

This broad range of experimentation builds on the musical flourishing of the 1960s and 1970s where bands like The Clash mixed punk with reggae and ska.

This mixing of styles and sounds reflected a wider unity that was growing among people who shared a common struggle against oppression, racism and war. Rock the Kasbah gives an indication of the direction music is taking and of the politicisation that is unifying people globally in struggle and in its cultural expression.

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Sat 15 Jan 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1934
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