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Vieux Farka Touré has strong musical roots. His father was the late great Malian guitarist Ali and although he didn’t want his son to go into the same line of work, he gave him his blessing. Vieux plays in a similar style to his dad, though without the same lyricism or mastery. As a warm-up act for the Algerian rock rebel Rachid Taha, Vieux didn’t deliver. His reworking of his father’s song “Sindia” was louder and bluesy, but also crude and added nothing.
Rachid Taha and his band, though, didn’t need a warm-up act for their brand of energy-fused, punky music. They kicked into their two-hour set with an infectious energy that only grew over the evening. Described by the broadcaster Andy Kershaw as Algerian music mixed with The Clash, Taha has been a voice of dissent in his exiled French home. His attacks on French politics and his heavy fusion of electric guitars and Arabic rhythms produce a potent mix of rousing power chords and politics. With bags of panache, decked out in a suave suit and a jauntily tilted trilby, he sauntered to the mike and spat out Arabic and French lyrics – such as in “Barra Barra” (“Outside”) – about the chaos of society. The crowd went crazy. Women invaded the stage several times to dance with the man and some even threw their undergarments at him. Taha seemed to lap it up and it only encouraged the six-strong band to rock more.
When things could scarcely have been more stirred up, though, he introduced his punk hero to the stage. Mick Jones from The Clash, also stylishly suited, grinned as he plugged in his guitar and played the opening riff with the mandole (a kind of Arabic lute) player to the anthem “Ya Rayah” (“Party”). It rocked hard. And then, inevitably perhaps, he helped deliver a Clash hit reworked by Taha with an Arabic twist, “Rock El Casbah”. “Happy now you remember it?” Taha teased Mick. The audience couldn’t have been more so.