Rachid Taha Demands Blow, Possibly Beefs With Santana at Raucous Show

"And that song with Rob Thomas? Utter shite!" Photo: Ryan Muir

The clouds broke over Summerstage for Dengue Fever, who opened Saturday's Global Rhythms show, but only closed up again for headliner Rachid Taha. The Algerian-French “worldbeat” artist radiated his own kind of sunshine, however: When he strolled onstage, cigarette smoke billowing around his black suit and white boots, belly-dancing erupted in the audience; teenagers, beaming, passed the Algerian flag through a sea of outstretched arms; and older Arab gentlemen gathered stage left, snapping their fingers and shaking their shoulders.

At one point Taha put on a red cowboy hat (one of a few that had been tossed onstage — they're a signature accessory), and said, slyly grinning, “You know Santana’s song, ‘Migra, Migra’? Well, here’s the original version”; it was “Kelma,” the apparent source of the melody for the Santana tune. The singer continued in this playful way, smoking, strutting, and shimmying like an Algerian Steven Tyler, pausing only to pour water over his head, fling same at the raucous crowd, or spout one liners in a mix of Arabic, French, and broken English. “What times is it, guys?” he later asked. “Is the show over? Can we start the sex and drugs part?” (This he followed with a list of post-show demands — cigarettes, alcohol, and cocaine among them.) After a rousing Clash cover, “Rock El Casbah,” he returned for a quick encore, said “hasta luego” with another impish smile, and disappeared to the after-party. —Lauren Salazar