Things could have been so different for Rachid Taha. Too ‘Algerian’ for French rock and too punk for rai: it’s a testament to his bloody-mindedness, stamina and unique ability to craft a top tune that we not only know his name but celebrate him as one of the best musicians associated with Algeria
That energy and attitude could not be better illustrated than with the opening two tracks. ‘Rock El Casbah’ is the ‘exotic’ answering back not with a polite response but with a terrible roar. While ‘Ya Rayah’ — perhaps the definitive Rachid Taha track — could not be more North African in instrumentation and approach but it is delivered with a snarl and the rasping voice of someone who has been on the bender of all benders.
What these two records share in common despite an age difference of 11 years is the unique team of Rachid Taha and ex-Gong man Steve Hillage as producer. In fact this album is essentially a documentation of that relationship. While other production relationships spanning cultures dropped by the wayside, this one has remained strong and that can only be a reflection of the fact that Hillage’s understanding of where Taha is coming from is profound and Taha’s desire for a punchy, rocky sound is not remotely commercial in origin. He is a man in constant search for the best weapon.
If you are not familiar with Rachid Taha’s music, this collection offers the perfect way to get in on one of the rawest and simultaneously most complex of artists around today. Like his estranged homeland, his music is dark, culturally complex, violent and somehow full of hope for better days and the triumph of basic decency over factionalism and dogma.
Rachid Taha — The Definitive Collection (WRASS182) is released April 2 on Wrasse Records and comes with a DVD documenting his return to Algeria. Rachid Taha also plays the Barbican, London on 6 April 2007
Rachid Taha on Wrasse Records
Rachid Taha’s site