World Music Rocks The Kasbah

Author: Yvonne Mitton


Rock The Kasbah (EMI 864 7912, 2004)

Compilation albums can sometimes be a bit of a risk, and in parts

Rock the Kasbah
will be downright scary to some ears. But what else
could you expect or even want from a collection of tracks brought together in
the name of Joe Strummer. Nor should it be totally surprising that
disenfranchised musicians should claim The Clash as mentors. The subtitle, Songs Of Freedom From The Streets Of The East, is rather
a loose description for this disparate collection of music; as well as the usual
suspects there are tracks that originate from the Ivory Coast, South Africa,
Jamaica and the U.K., but who wants to be pedantic – a good half of the artists
on this album are worth following up. It has plenty to intrigue and grab the
attention of those prepared to be open-minded, with the album veering from the
romantic drama of
Baghdad, the anthem of Kadim Al Sahir, Radio 3 World Music Audience Award Winner
2004, to the acerbic in-your-face Fortress Europe from the London based
collective, Asian Dub Foundation, and just about everything else in between.

The album kick-starts with the loudest claimant to The Clash’s formative
influence, the raffish

Rachid Taha
rolling into his own, much vaunted, stylish homage version of
the pithy title track; he was about to record with Strummer before Strummer’s
untimely death. But if you really want to rock and roll, this is followed
through with an arse-shaking, belter of a live performance of Lela, an unlikely
duet between the old funk-meister himself, James Brown, and Egypt’s hugely best
selling sha’abi singer,
Hakim – the album is worth it for this track alone. Tracks from Blend and Junoon, for
all their worthy and understandable pathos are leaden with heavy metal angst,
and sit depressingly side by side on the album – I recommend you operate the
shuffle/random mode on your kit to re-sequence the tracks which may make them
separately more tolerable.

For the faint-hearted there are more conventional offerings, but other tracks
that stand out for me are the kwaito singer, Mandoza, with the exuberant
Nkalakatha, the sweetly gentle Alamduilillah from Malaysia’s hip-hop duo Too
Phat with Yasin, Paris Du Nord from CCheb
and K-mel, and also
’s reggae, Veto De Dieu, chorusing John Lennon’s leitmotif – ‘give
peace a chance’.

But in the end what really hits the spot is the final track – Strummer
himself with a simple, poignant and heartbreaking performance of
’s anthemistic Redemption Song, from his last album, Hardcore, with
his band the Mescaleros. More than anything Rock The Kasbah begs the question,
where are all the Joe Strummers of the western world now, where music, certainly
in the U.K. is suffering a major infection of transient, party-piece performing
clones and easy listening pseudo-jazz?


Rock the Kasbah