The new album by Rachid Taha is a fitting final act to close out the decades-long career of a musical giant. He collaborated with Mick Jones (The Clash), Brian Eno and Damon Albarn and celebrated by greats like Tony Allen and Femi Kuti. The bona fide rock ‘n’ roll rebel’s death last year prompted outpourings by fellow artists and music fans worldwide. He was 59. The single Like A Dervish is out now and the LP – Je Suis Africain – follows on September 20th, released by the label Naïve/Believe.
On Je Suis Africain – completed before his death from a heart attack in September 2018 – the Algerian-born musician closed out his career with a typically wide-ranging approach to his music. The album was produced and co-written by Toma Feterman, founder of group La Caravane Passe. The two met through the late Rémy Kolpa Kopoul, an influential journalist and DJ on Radio Nova. It features his first song in English, Like A Dervish – a grooving, rock-influenced track, he sings, “I know I’m cheating, my English is not so rich.”
Taha lit up the world with groundbreaking combinations of Arabic and European styles, as well as musical traditions always fused with his punk aesthetic. His much-loved covers of both The Clash and Algerian chaâbi legend Dahmane El-Harrach are renowned worldwide. Taha was also a forthright political figure and his music has been a rallying point for anti-racism campaigners in France, Algeria and beyond.
Taha was a peer of Northern African compatriots like Khaled, Souad Massi and Tinariwen and his music combines that esteemed background with a global array of influences – including punk rock, blues, the dub poetry of Linton Kwesi Johnson and contemporary electronic music. He was also influenced by Algeria’s raï music – a politically-minded folk music dating back to the early 20th century, Sufi trance and Morocco’s gnawa tradition.
His 2004 cover of The Clash’s Rock the Casbah underscored his anti-authoritarian credentials further. He recorded it in Arabic, his original take striking a chord with an even bigger global audience. He also toured extensively with close friend Damon Albarn and his Africa Express. Speaking about Taha, Albarn said: “[He was] a beautiful person, very naughty…he was at the heart of what we did”). Taha was part of an iconic Africa Express show at Glastonbury and also toured to the Royal Festival Hall, Barbican and WOMAD festival in the UK.