Dancers’ Newsletter Extra Features:Review of Rachid Taha

Review of Rachid Taha by Renee

In 2008, I attended my very first belly dance recital at the Bronson Centre in Ottawa. I was so thrilled to see all the beautiful costumes and watch the performers dance to inspiring music. The final act was performed by Halyma, who danced to an Arabic version of ‘Rock the Casbah’ by Rachid Taha, (a Clash cult classic). It was an auspicious ending to the evening.


Rachid Taha - cover art
Rachid Taha - cover art



Rachid Taha (born 1958 in Oran, Algeria) is a French-Algerian musician. His music is influenced by many different styles such as raï, techno, rock and punk. Based in Paris, France where he began his solo career after his beginnings as the leader of the French rock band “Carte de Séjour”, he usually sings in Arabic. Taha moved from Algeria to Alsace and then Vosges, France, where his father had already emigrated, in 1970. In 1981, while living in Lyon, France, Taha met Mohammed and Moktar Amini. The two of them, Rachid, Djamel Dif and Eric Vaquer would later form the band Carte de séjour (“residence permit”) and record their first maxi single Carte de Séjour in 1983. Their first LP Rhoromanie, came out in 1984. Their second and last LP entitled Deux et Demi was released in 1986 and included their famous and ironic cover of Douce France, originally.
(This information can be found on several websites.)

As I watched several live performances of Taha on YouTube, I witnessed a poised performer (much like any rock star) that punched out his songs with punk-like resonance, except in Arabic! I was really taken by Taha’s unconventional approach. Traditionally Arabic music conveys parables or love songs using metaphors. Taha has broken away from the conventional style and replaced it with his own sincere views on social and political observations.

Below is an excerpt from a general out bio of Taha’s life and accomplishments. You can also visit his web page  and there are numerous links to interviews and music samples everywhere on the internet.

The following excerpts are from:

About Rachid Taha by Andy Morgan

Who are you?” “Who am I?” It sounds like there’s an existential storm broiling deep inside the soul of France’s number 1 musical upsetter. ‘Tékitoi?’, the title of the latest in a long line of probing, provocative and highly original Rachid Taha releases, is a punchy piece of French street lingo whose tone actually says something more like “Who the hell are you?”. If Taha is feeling the need to ask himself and others the most basic questions, then at least he’s doing it with all the verve and vivacity of a straight-jabbing southpaw boxer.

But that’s the man all over. Some strange mutation in the Taha gene over forty-six years ago created a phenomenon as rare as as an albino tiger; a musician of Arabic origin with the courage, intelligence and insight to speak the truth as he sees it, loud and direct, without the softening comforts of metaphor, parable or nostalgia. Or perhaps this uniqueness can be put down to the simple fact that music hit Taha, and vice versa, in the first few years of the 1980s, a period when rock’n’roll still meant rebellion rather than dollars, and when young North African immigrants and sons of immigrants living in France were beginning to shake off decades of timidity with their very own equivalent of America’s Black Pride movement.

…There, at ‘Les Refoulés’ (‘The Repressed’), Taha hit the decks and span everything from Oum Khalthoum to Kraftwerk, with salvos of The Clash, Led Zep, The Who, Neil Young and Johnny Cash mixed in between.

…And last, but by no means least, there’s ‘Rock El Casbah’. In 1982 a young and eager Rachid went to see The Clash at The Mogador in Paris. “I don’t know about the others, but I especially liked Joe Strummer’s sincerity, his humor, his awkwardness,” Rachid reflects. “He had nothing to do with that typical punk cynicism. This cover is a tribute to him really.” Before the gig at the Mogador, Rachid met the band, spoke to them for a few minutes and handed over a tape of Carte de Séjour songs. “I felt that they were interested,” remembers Rachid, “but when they didn’t get in touch afterwards I just thought that’s life.” “Having said that, when I heard ‘Rock the Casbah’ later that year, I thought that maybe something really had happened after all,” he adds with a wry mischievous smile.

For the full article by Andy Morgan, click here.