Arabic Twist On The Theme From Shaft

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Years ago on PRI’s The World’s end-of-program feature called Global Hit, Marco Werman featured a tantalizing version of the Isaac Hayes classic, complete with the wah-wah pedal and drum riff that opens the song. This version was by an French artist of both Algerian and Celtic parentage named Malik Adouane. The version of the song I got was on an collection called Beur-FM, a Parisian radio station that caters to France’s North African communities. The compilation was being sold at Starbucks Coffee shops in France. Made me think our own Starbucks are a little behind the curve.

I watched the video that showcased Malik Adouane’s version a few years ago, and sent it out to friends. My colleague Dawn Elder, who has done more for Arabic and Middle Eastern artists than anybody else in the U.S.–organizing concert tours, producing records, tv shows, booking artists–called me the other day and I mentioned Malik to her. She sent me the video and I watched it again, smiling all the way. It’s all a funny take on blaxploitation films of the 1970s, with a dash of belly dancing and even Lawrence of Arabia.

I’ve played it when deejaying at various events over the years. People think it’s the Hayes version, until the tune takes a serious left turn and Malik starts singing in Arabic. People are both delighted and flummoxed.

Here is Malik Adouane’s video of the Hayes classic:

Malik was the first to cover a blaxploitation song, but recently there was another cover of a 60’s rock classic, Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”, on the American Hustle soundtrack, of all things. It was covered by Mayssa Karaa, a Lebanese singer as seen here: