Rachid Taha 

Tekitoi

Five years after Cheb Mami introduced rai to mainstream America on Sting's "Desert Rose," another Algerian superstar, Rachid Taha, may have taken the genre past critical mass with a clever cover of a punk anthem. Taha outfits the Clash's "Rock the Casbah" with a more traditional Middle-Eastern feel -- it opens with a flute-and-drums intro -- and the mix of electric guitars and ouds is positively sublime, as are the Arabic vocals. But Taha isn't just flipping irony on its heels; he's making a statement to the world. His intention, it seems, is to rock the actual Kasbah -- as well as every discotheque or nightclub from Algiers to Paris to London to San Francisco. Other songs like "Safi," "Lli Fat Mat," and "H'asbu-Hum" show that Taha is on to something fresh with his Arabesque rock-funk fusion and lyrics that range from inspirational to political, while the album's title track, which translates to "Who Are You," is nothing less than a declaration of a new Arab identity -- thoroughly modern, yet rooted in tradition.

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