Daily Reason to Dance

daily reason to dance: Rock the Casbah

Rock the Casbah
The Clash

In summer 2002 I spent a week helping to run a training camp for Students for a Free Tibet (SFT). The previous year, we had camped in a ravine on the edge of Malibu and been flooded out by torrential rains. This time we were outside Bloomington, IN on property owned by a co-op of retired truckers. We were in a gully about 3 acres in size, plenty of room for 100-ish activists to practice hanging banners on embassies, preventing riot police from snatching people out of crowds and ensuring that your message will reach passers by and the media even if your voice is drowned out by circumstance.

When we woke each day all of the grass was completely covered in dew. There was so much of it that the lush grass was weighed down low against the ground. As the sun rose higher in the sky, all of that dew evaporated post-haste and hung in the air around us. It had nowhere to go since we were surrounded by sleepy little brush-covered hills. By mid-day it was like a sauna, ninety five degrees and ninety percent humidity. When dusk arrived, the moisture turned to haze, then fog that gradually thickened as the temperature fell. Around 9:30 at night, while we hung around a bonfire telling stories, if you looked up you would notice that the dense fog stopped – abruptly – about 8 or 9 feet in the air. Above it, the air was clear and stars were shining. If you rose at 2am to empty your bladder you would find that the fog had been compressed to a magical mist that hung low to the ground and swirled around your feet as you moved through the grass. In the morning, there was nothing but dew and the rising sun.

It was in that setting that I had a memorable conversation with Han Shan, one of the camp coordinators and a member of SFT’s board. I’d had a childish crush on Han Shan since meting him at the WTO protests in Seattle. The conversation started with an awkward moment discussing poison ivy but then, after a while, turned to the Clash and how their radicalism inspired him as a young punk. I confessed that I had never thought of the Clash as radical. In response, he pitched an analysis of Rock the Casbah as a critique of oil power and a clarion call of solidarity for oppressed minorities and social liberals in the Arab world. I filed that idea away in my head and promptly returned to admiring his five-o-clock shadow and his cool, calm composure that managed to radiate “I’m an activist and I’m determined to make a difference”.

Lyrics:

Now the King told the boogie men
You have to let that raga drop
The oil down the desert way
Has been shakin’ to the top
The Sheik he drove his Cadillac
He went a cruisin’ down the ville
The Muezzin was a standing
On the radiator grille

The Sharif don’t like it
Rockin’ the Casbah
Rockin’ the Casbah
The Sharif don’t like it
Rockin’ the Casbah
Rockin’ the Casbah

By order of the Prophet
We ban that boogie sound
Degenerate the faithful
With that crazy Casbah sound
But the Bedouin they brought out
The electric camel drum
The local guitar picker
Got his guitar picking thumb
As soon as the Sharif had cleared the square
They began to wail

The Sharif don’t like it
Rockin’ the Casbah
Rockin’ the Casbah
The Sharif don’t like it
Rockin’ the Casbah
Rockin’ the Casbah

Now over at the temple
Oh, they really pack ’em in
The in crowd say it’s cool
To dig this chanting thing
But as the wind changed direction
Then the temple band took five
The crowd caught a whiff
Of that crazy Casbah jive

The Sharif don’t like it
Rockin’ the Casbah
Rockin’ the Casbah
The Sharif don’t like it
Rockin’ the Casbah
Rockin’ the Casbah

The King called up his jet fighters
He said you better earn your pay
Drop your bombs between the Minarets
Down the Casbah way
As soon as the Sharif was chauffeured outta there
The jet pilots tuned to the cockpit radio blare
As soon as the Sharif was outta their hair
The jet pilots wailed

The Sharif don’t like it
Rockin’ the Casbah
Rockin’ the Casbah
The Sharif don’t like it
Rockin’ the Casbah
Rockin’ the Casbah

The Sharif don’t like it
He thinks it’s not kosher
Rockin’ the Casbah
Rockin’ the Casbah
The Sharif don’t like it
Fundamentally he can’t take it
Rockin’ the Casbah
Rockin’ the Casbah
The Sharif don’t like it
You know he really hates it
Rockin’ the Casbah
Rockin’ the Casbah
The Sharif don’t like it

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