|Biographical detail : ||Musician whose songs have flavours with Algerian spice and sharp, topical lyrics.
Franco-Algerian singer Rachid Taha’s politically charged pop, eastern soul gets a Western beat. Taha’s CD on Rock the Casbah (2005) that gained a wide audience answer the provocative question posed by the title track, Tekitoi? (Who Are You?) “I’m a French rock ‘n’ roller with deep Arab roots. I’m a European born in Africa and a Muslim musician with a rock attitude. Tekitoi? is a reminder that people can affirm their many identities without denying others.” It retains a strong north African flavour and reaffirms Taha’s reputation as a politically engaged singer.
Taha has focussed on merging the influences of his native Algeria with European idioms he encountered after emigrating France when he was 10. In 1980, after a series of drudge jobs, including a stint in a heater factory, he hooked up with a quartet – three of whom were fellow ethnic Arabs – in a Lyons suburb and formed Garte de Sejour (Green Card).
The band’s sound and defiant Arabic lyrics about racism, immigration and social injustices won it a healthy club following. But the band managed to break through in 1986 with an Arab-accented cover, Douce France (Sweet France), a wartime ballad that propelled it into the charts, and that set the tone for Taha’s subsequent releases.
Since going solo in 1990, Taha’s output has been eclectic – Ole, Ole (1995), Diwan (1998) that went gold selling over 100,000 copies in France, followed by Ya Rayah, a popular north African song of exile. Taha makes lavish use of traditional Arab instruments like the oud lute, and string and wind sections, driven forward by electric bass and guitars. He delivers a dual message in lli Fat Mat (The Past Is the Past), urging listeners to embrace tradition for its richness rather than cling to it out of resentment or fear.
Rachid Taha was born at Oran, a culturally rich northwestern port city of Algeria.