Radio France Internationale MAY 27, 2005 - by Bialka Wlodarczyk


A world first: Rachid Taha and Brian Eno performed together for the first time ever to a Russian audience in Saint Petersburg on May 24 and Moscow on May 25. Eno worked the machines, while Taha took the mike, together producing a memorable concoction of rock, electronica and Arab sounds.

Brian Eno, a mythical figure for Russian music fans, and very much a Russophile himself, lived for a few months in St Petersburg in 1997 and still visits regularly. However, he had never performed in the country, and it was with Rachid Taha taking centre stage that he eventually had his first live encounter with a Russian audience. A long-time fan of Arab music, Eno discovered Rachid Taha by chance, falling for one of his songs without even realising who had performed it. Judging Rachid Taha to be one of the most interesting musicians today, he decided to collaborate with him, both on the new album Tékitoi, (Dima!), and also inviting him to perform the two concerts in St Petersburg and Moscow.

In Moscow, the concert took place in the Gorbunov Culture Palace (or the Gorbushka, as Muscovites call it), a very Soviet looking concert hall. Despite a huge power cut which paralysed all of south Moscow, blocking several metro lines and adding worry lines on the organisers' faces, over twelve hundred people turned up. Most had come to hear Eno: Brian is the 'locomotive' of the event, explained Alexander Cheparukhin, director of concert organisers Greenwave, during the run-up to the concert. I'm sure that Rachid Taha will find an audience in Russia, with Brian Eno's help; and the next time he'll be back on his own!

I came to hear Eno, whom I've listened to since I was a kid, and I didn't want to miss this concert, explained Natacha during the first half of the concert. I haven't heard of Rachid Taha before, but I thought it would definitely be interesting to hear Eno's latest discovery, and I am in no way disappointed! But Dina, a French web designer, who also came for Eno, was disappointed: Eno is behind all the other musicians, he's not up-front enough, I don't hear what has always excited me with Eno. Listening to his albums at home is better! Fedor, a young journalists who claims to be particularly Francophile is one of the rare people here who came to hear Rachid Taha. Although a fan of his songs like Douce France, Fedor nonetheless expected something far more Middle Eastern. Taha should stick to his Arab roots, without trying to mix it up with rock and electronica. Tonight I find his music is distorted.

Throw them a blanket if they're cold!

After the concert, Rachid Taha reacted to such opinions: I'm not about performing Arab music, that's not the main thing about my work. And I definitely don't want to do something that's folklore! I'm French, just as I might have been American, English or anything else. In music, what's interesting is to blend different things. Frontiers between different genres don't exist for me. As for his impressions of the Russian audience, Rachid Taha says, They were a bit cold to begin with, in both St Petersburg and Moscow. But in fact, some of that is down to the fact that we were a bit cold on stage. If they're cold, you have to throw them a blanket! It's up to us to make an effort, musicians are entertainers who have to win over their public, give them warmth. That's our job. As for Russia, In countries where things are tough politically, like in Russia, people learn how to defend themselves and they don't learn to love. Here, you sometimes feel racism in the way people look at you. There's a lot of work to be done, and the people don't have the same vision of things as we do. There's more ignorance and they have some distance to travel. But they are growing up fast. Music is combat, it's a permanent battle, and France also needs this combat!

For the ten final minutes of the concert, Rachid Taha invited audience members up on stage. Around thirty people came up to dance with the musicians, embrace Rachid Taha and admire Brian Eno perched behind his machines.