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Saffiyah Khan: from the viral photo of EDL to The Specials

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Average captionSaffiyah Khan: "It was a strange experience that became viral"

It's been less than two years since the calm smile of Saffiyah Khan, just a few centimeters from the face of an activist from the British Defense League, made headlines globally. But since then, he has gone through a frenzy of activity that has taken everything from the catwalk, to making a film with the BBC, to perform with ska revivalists, The Specials.

When the 20-year-old was photographed while he was defending a woman during a protest in front of the Birmingham Library on April 8, 2017, he was far from being viral.

That photograph of her walking on tiptoes with a demonstrator was seen by thousands of people and described in The Guardian as a symbol of the city "standing up to the far right group".

But perhaps what is less well known than that image is that from a different angle Khan can be clearly seen wearing a Specials T-shirt. In a few hours the band had offered its tickets for one of their concerts.

But that has become a note at the bottom of the story. Now it appears on The News album, Encore, with Ten Commandments – a personal replica written on a track of one of the ska ancestors, Prince Buster.

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The band approached Khan immediately after taking this picture

"I'm just rolling with it," says Khan, from Acocks Green to Birmingham. "I left school without qualifications, so I had no choice."

Just that approach to life saw her go on stage for the first time to perform on the track with the band she now considers as the family at London's 100 Club last Friday.

It was also the first time in nearly 40 years – since the release of More Specials in 1980 – that the band debuted new material with Terry Hall on vocals.

The band pointed out her excitement. But this after discovering Ten Commandments recording of The Specials took place in the same mixing desk that produced Exodus by Bob Marley & The Wailers in 1977, so what did they expect?

"I did not care, I was thinking," I could never do it again ", he said.

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The twenty year old has performed on stage for the first time ever last Friday

The Ten Commandments of Man was a success in the United States for Prince Buster in 1965. But some of his lyrics – such as "You would not provoke me to anger, or my anger will come down heavily on you" – are an uncomfortable reading for Eyes of the 21 Century.

Horace Panter, bassist and founding member of The Specials, happily admits that the Prince had a great influence on why he started things first.

"The band did a cover of Enjoy Yourself and tried Al Capone on Gangsters," he recalls.

"But Ten Commandments did not travel very well and, listening to it again, it was important to make a contemporary version.

"The problem is that our attempts turned out to be comedy versions of the song".

This led to the idea of ​​turning it "completely overhead" by making a woman make her voice – and by making Khan fit into true excitement.

"And, you know what, he bit his hands," says Panter.

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Terry Hall and Horace Panter, left, performing with The Specials in 1980

After disguising his excitement to receive the call from Hall, Khan suddenly found himself having to find the right words.

You have reacted to texts like: "Two, you would not encourage any man to make love with you … Because I am your man, a very jealous man, and he is ready to silence every other man who may interfere in our love ".

But he had a mental block for months before finding the right words, namely: "Do not listen to Prince Buster or any other man who offers a kind advice on my conduct".

"I wrote the text only the night before we recorded it," he says.

"For years I had told them that I had been ordered," but, at the moment I am not near my computer, so I can not send it to you. "

"I had a lot of ideas but he was trying to make it work in a song."

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Larry Ellis / Getty Images

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Jamaican songwriter and producer Prince Buster influenced reggae and ska artists

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It's the first time in nearly 40 years that the band has debuted new material with Terry Hall on vocals

Although he clearly highlights how Prince Buster's original texts were original, Khan is ready to declare that his version is not a "song that hates man".

"His [also] Do not tell women: "Throw away your makeup and become a militant feminist," he says.

"What it is about is the good sense of how we treat one another."

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One day last summer, after five or six shots, Khan nailed the studio track. And it was a story very similar to the 100 Club, a concert set up to celebrate the end of the week of the independent BBC 6Music sites, led by DJ Steve Lamacq.

"When it arrived, the first thing Saffiyah said is" I've never done it before, I do not know how it works, "Panter says.

"We said, do not worry, we're not really sure how it will work".

No one had to worry though, since the track was one of the highlights of the set of an hour.

"When we got up for breakfast on Saturday, we still had a smile on our faces – it was great," adds Panter.

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Universal Music Operations Ltd

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Khan said he struggled to find the right words at the beginning, but was inspired the night before the recording session

Since its release last week the track has divergent opinions. Somewhat surprisingly, Panter points out that he went particularly well in the United States.

"If there are people who find it too radical, too feminist, too liberal, there are many people who say it's not radical enough," Khan says.

But this has provoked strong reactions from both sides and suggests that it is a very necessary declaration in the current political climate, he adds.

Even his presence continues, it seems, is important. Khan has just confirmed that the performance of the 100 Club has led to a place on the next tour of the United States, Europe and the United Kingdom.

Panter warns people not to be deceived by thinking they are a representative of the "younger generation".

"Most young people do not think about politics, but Saffiya really is at the forefront of something," he says.

"She is doing [all this], while most people of his age have their heads locked in their cell phones, taking selfies. "

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