INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Mojo DECEMBER 2018 - by David Hutcheon
ALGERIA'S STRUMMER: BORN 1958
The way Rachid Taha remembered it, The Clash's Paris residency of September 1981 was a seismic event, the realisation that rock music could be anything he wanted it to be. In 1986 his band, Carte De Séjour, peaked with a cover of Charles Trenet's rose-tinted La Douce France; doused in vitriol, it did what Taha had set out to do - everybody important hated it and everyone who mattered understood.
Born in Algeria in 1958, Taha was raised in smalltown France from the age of ten. He listened to Oum Kalthoum and Algerian chaabi at home, rock'n'roll outside, and ran Lyon's Le Refoulé club, one of the few places in the city where the excluded were welcome without hassle.
Said the novelist Brigitte Giraud: "He instilled in French rock something new: a mix of traditional Arabic, Berber, rock and a lot of energy." This unique alchemy started to bear fruit after he quit Carte de Séjour, international audiences taking notice with 1998's Ya Rayah, an exile's song of regret. That year, the singer took his place alongside Khaled and Faudel at 1, 2, 3 Soleils, a celebration of Algerian culture in front of sixteen-thousand in Paris. Coming three months after Zinedine Zidane's match-winning performance in the World Cup final, it was, Taha claimed, the first time France had acknowledged North Africa as a positive part of modern French life.
His inclusiveness, his fusion of oud and Gene Vincent, and his exhilarating live shows and Africa Express appearances - rarely ending before, for better or worse, he'd left every bit of himself on-stage - brought new audiences to world music. He still had much work to do.