‘Ha baby!’ he exclaimed in a raspy, booze-soaked tongue; I could even hear the alcohol. ‘Ha baby? You say ha baby, we say habibi!’, he explained, in an effort to elucidate the ‘story’ behind one the titles of his new numbers. By now, Taha’s disheveled curls were glistening beneath the hot stage lights, his top hat had ignominiously tilted itself aside, and his damp violet shirt – sans discarded blazer – had long squirmed its way out of his skinny black trousers. If there was ever anyone who fit the ‘elegantly wasted’ bill, I thought to myself, it was this guy. Wriggling around, brushing his fingers through his swarthy locks and against his burnished brow, he and his ragtag outfit slowly – but surely – eased their way into the next number, much to the elation of an enrapt and slightly intoxicated audience; for after he sat down onstage to languidly dribble a football between his feet, no one imagined he’d make it up on his snakeskin boots again. In the front rows, a mesmerised camp of Algerians gyrated back and forth beneath the shadow of the national flag, tripping hippies swayed about violently on the balcony above, and a 70-something year-old couple left the hall in marked disgust. The sharif may not have liked it, but Taha wasn’t one to give a damn. ‘Ya ha baby, ya ghalbi!’ Taha continued to cry, ever defiantly, as he rocked and razed that casbah to the ground. For that one moment on an otherwise bleak autumn night, it seemed as if everything, somehow, was going to be OK.
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