I have had rap star Mos Def ‘s new album “The Ecstatic,” on repeat, especially the record “The Auditorium,” featuring Slick Rick. On hearing “The Auditorium” for the first time, I knew immediately where I heard the beat driving the song: Madlib’s “Beat Kondukta in India: Vol 3 &4.” But what is that sample of Arabic during Slick Rick’s verse? Later while watching the classic film, “Battle of Algiers,” again (for umpteenth time), it hit me: It’s a piece of dialogue from Battle of Algiers. At the start of the film, the lead character Ali la Pointe, the Algerian liberation fighter but still a petty criminal at this point, is doing a card trick on a group of unsuspecting bystanders while repeating the same phrase in Arabic. There it was.
I loved how Gillo Pontecorvo (he also directed the film) and Franco Solinas introduced Ali in the script: ” Two hands are moving; one over the other, they criss-cross with incredible speed; at the same time, they are shifting three small pieces of wood which appear to be identical. The hand movements are marked by a kind of Algerian CHANT. From time to time, the pieces of wood are overturned for a split second so that the other sides are visible. Robust hands, thick, unusually agile for their size. The hands of Ali la Pointe, younger then, twenty- four years old …”