Rachid Taha Tekitoi? Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

'Tékitoi? is largely top-notch original material co-written by Taha with Hillage and...

Jon Lusk 2004

If the Happy Monday's Shaun Ryder had been born in Algeria, he might have made music something like Rachid Taha - the wild man of Algerian rai. Tekitoi is French slang for "who are you?" and maybe it's directed as much at himself as his audience. That's because, even by the mix-and-match standards of his chosen style, he's an eclectic artist, drawing on rock, dance, hip hop and reggae for inspiration, as well as the diverse North African sounds he's absorbed in France since his family left Algeria when he was only ten.

Tekitoi? is Taha's first studio recording since Made in Medina (2001) and falls somewhere between the rockiness of that album and his earlier, more folkloric masterpiece Diwân. As ever, his long-term collaborator Steve Hillage contributes guitar, programming and production, sensitively combining digital beats and swathes of rock guitar with more earthy and acoustic sounds. These include Hossan Ramzy's Arabic percussion, oud-like mandolute from Hakim Hamadouche, Magid Serour's brightly metallic qanun (North African zither), the swirling atmospherics of rosewood gasbah flute and the grandeur of the Egyptian String Ensemble. They feature on more than half the tracks of the original album, beefed up in this edition to a generous 72 minutes by the addition of the evergreen "Ya Rayah" and a Spanish-language version of "Voila Voila". It also comes with a 45 minute DVD documenting a recent tour of Mexico, featuring onstage action and some pithy interview footage with the man and his hard-working band.

Fans of The Clash will instantly recognise "Rock El Casbah", which has ironically lost a little of its swing in translation. Never mind; the rest of Tékitoi? is largely top-notch original material co-written by Taha with Hillage and various others. The best known of these is Brian Eno, who contributes synthesiser and drums to "Dima!", which cheekily recycles the rhythm track from Chaka Demus & Plier's monster hit "Murder She Wrote". Hey, they probably stole it from somebody else!

Another highlight is the rocking hip-hop flavoured groove of "NahSeb", with its alternately jabbing and swooning strings and some typically guttural growls from Taha. His vocals are seldom less than compelling and stand out best on the more stripped-down and rootsy arrangements of songs like "Hasbu-hum" and "Mamachi". The title track is a nifty duet with Christian Olivier, who seems much better paired with Taha than Georgian singer Kaha Beri on the rather limp "Winta". It's one of the few weak points on an otherwise solid and often impressive album.

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