Live Last Night: Hoba Hoba Spirit

A mere 27 years after the Clash scored a fluke U.S. hit with "Rock the Casbah,'' the Casbah returned the favor Sunday evening at the Eisenhower Theater. As part of the Kennedy Center's "Arabesque" festival, Casablanca quintet Hoba Hoba Spirit played a short but exuberant set of what one song termed "Marock'n roll.''

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

There were glimmers of traditional Arabic music in Hoba Hoba's style, notably in the coiling vocal melodies of singer-dancer-percussionist Othmane Hmimar. But the group was not much like either Mali's Tinariwen, which adapts Saharan laments to electric guitars, or the Master Musicians of Jajouka, the Moroccan ensemble whose trance-ritual sounds struck the late-'60s Rolling Stones as proto-acid-rock. Instead, Hoba Hoba played a form of world music whose precedents were mostly Anglo-American.

The Clash seemed the essential forerunner to the band, which opened its show with a song that proclaimed "this is Radio Hoba,'' lightly revising the refrain of "This Is Radio Clash.'' Singer-guitarist Reda Allali's gruff delivery recalled Joe Strummer, and the group's melange of funk rhythms, shout-along refrains and spaghetti-Western guitar echoed the Clash's musical world-tour triple album, "Sandinista.''

English played a minor part in the lyrics, which were mostly in French and darija, a Moroccan dialect. Yet Allali knew enough of the local lingo to offer the usual rock-band exhortations to jump, dance and have a good time. He didn't really have to ask. Hoba Hoba Spirit's music wasn't surprising, but it was sharp, vibrant and very nearly universal.

-- MARK JENKINS

By J. Freedom du Lac |  March 9, 2009; 11:38 AM ET Live Last Night
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You were right on target with the Hoba Hoba Spirit. I noticed esp your comments about Clash/Kasbah (no mention of Taha), Tinariwen, Stones, Jajouka. HA! Hmimar is an energy magnet for sure. The French lyrics were weak in comparison to the Moroccan dialect or even English. Good show. Good article.

Posted by: mwm1 | March 12, 2009 3:57 PM

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