INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Sydney Morning Herald JUNE 3, 2009 - by John Shand
EVEN ENO WAS DANCING AT TAHA'S PARTY
Rachid Taha: Opera Theatre, June 1
Fans of the festival's curator, Brian Eno, received an amusing treat during Rachid Taha's concert, when Taha thanked Eno (who was in the audience), then invited him on stage. One suspects Eno would have happily stayed put but, being a good sport, he clambered up and spent the next five songs singing along (as a knowledge of the words permitted), dancing and coaxing women from the audience to give him someone to shimmy with other than Taha.
If he was somewhat inhibited by not speaking Arabic, Eno was able to hurl himself into Taha's famed cover of The Clash's Rock The Casbah with obvious relish.
Taha himself exuded a curious happiness and vague instability that in decades past we might have ascribed to certain stimulants, but in this day and age probably just reflected being on first-name terms with his deity of choice. His music takes elements from his native Algeria, shoots them full of rock steroids, then levels them out with dance beats.
Ensuring the exotic elements were not entirely lost were Hakim Hamadouche, who played mandolute (a fretted cousin of the North African oud), and Rachid Belgacem, who played popping rhythms on darabukka. Unfortunately the sound mix often had the mandolute swamped by Yves Aouizerate's keyboards and Stephane Bertin's electric guitar, and the percussion obliterated by Guillaume Rossel's drumming.
At its best the music swelled up with thick, hypnotic riffs, the mandolute combining with keyboard-generated string sounds and then topped by Taha's singing. At its worst the repetition became mundane and boorish. But with drinks allowed in the Opera Theatre and Eno gently gyrating on stage, this was more party than concert, anyway.
Rachid Taha plays at the Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, tomorrow, and with Seun Kuti And Egypt 80 on June 11.