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Awards for World Music 2008
Rachid Taha
Diwan 2
Rachid Taha album cover
Small of stature but huge in presence, Rachid Taha is a genre breaking musician who constantly pushes North African music into new areas. Taha’s beautifully gruff voice, willingness to mix Algerian rai music with Western flavours and dynamic live concerts have won him a wide audience. If perhaps not wide enough: I’ve interviewed Taha twice and he hates being labeled “rai/Arabic”, preferring to see himself as more the North African offspring of Johnny Cash and The Clash.

Born in Oran, Algeria, and raised in Vosges, France, Taha’s first musical foray involved the band Carte de Sejour (“residence permit”). Spurred on by punk’s confrontational nature, Carte de Sejour courted controversy when, in 1984, they recorded an ironic cover of the French standard Douce France. The band dissolved in 1989 and Taha released several solo albums that were occasionally inspired but too often a mishmash of rock and rai.

Then in 1998, working with British producer/musician Steve Hillage, Taha recorded Diwan. This superb album of old Arabic songs – sounding fresh and fierce in Taha’s hands - made Taha a star and turned the album’s opening tune, Ya Rayeh, into a popular dance anthem. In 1999 Taha sealed his iconic status in France by appearing alongside Khaled and Faudel – the King and Prince of rai music – at a huge concert in Paris. For 2000’s Made In Medina album Taha and Hillage crunched tough rock guitar and techno beats into the North African mix. Taha’s audience now ranged from Algerian youths through clubbers, rockers and world music fans. The singer’s high profile and plain-spoken nature made him a natural opponent to France’s extreme right politicians.

2004 found Taha-Hillage pushing the electronic rai boundaries further with Tekitoi (even covering The Clash’s Rock The Casbah – that band’s guitarist, Mick Jones, joined him on stage in London). Taha is never predictable and when he released Diwan 2 in 2006 he was once again exploring his roots. Many cheered – here was one of the best Arabic singers of recent times again singing tough, timeless songs that appear to have lingered in smoke filled Algerian tea rooms and bars forever.

Garth Cartwright


Read other people's comments then Tell us what you think:

I'm proud of you FABY LA ROUSSE

Sabina, London England
Weird but cool song didn't understand it one bit though- referring to Agatha

angela- scotland
Graham, Good to see I have a fellow follower here in Scotland though surely we're not a fan base of two. Hope Rachid's successful at this year's awards ceremony Looking forward to hearing the programme on Radio 3 this evening. Off to London to see him yet again, this time at the Jazz Cafe. Would be much more exciting tho to see him at the fruitmarket. Exert whatever influence you have. I'll be scouring the pages of the Celtic Connections brochure as soon as its published. On that note, don't you think its about time Alan Stivell revisited us?

Graham Stewart, Glasgow
I agree, Angela. I bought my first Rachid Taha CD in 1992 ('Voila, Voila' for 99p in a bargain bin) and have been a fan ever since. I've only ever seen him live once (in Edinburgh as part of the first 'African Soul Rebels' tour along with Tinariwen and Daara J) but used to correspond with him regularly by way of email. I'll have a word with Donald Shaw, the artistic director of 'Celtic Connections' and see if he can get him booked to play one year. I reckon RT would go down a storm in Glasgow.

angela- scotland
have all of Rachid Taha's albums as result of hearing a demo from SONGLINES mag. Have also seen him twice - not often enough- in Paris and Whitby. do not like the way in which he's represented by some on youtube. Love this track - agatha. Would like to think that in the real Algerian world, to bring up another person's child is not the worst thing on earth but am not convinced tho agree that lying is never a good idea. Think he definitely should be in the running for a UK award and most certainly don't understand why he's not doesn't featuring in Celtic Connections here in Glasgow. Would suggest he and his music are more celtically connected than teenage fanclub!!

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