Saturday, January 14, 2012

Barra Barra - Rashid Taha

Rachid Taha (born September 18, 1958 in Sig, Algeria) is an Algerian singer and activist based in France who has been described as "sonically adventurous." His music is influenced by many different styles such as rock, electronic, punk and raï.
In 1989, Taha moved to Paris to launch his solo career. At one point he was invited to Los Angeles to record with musician Don Was, who had been a producer associated with the Rolling Stones. Taha mixed a variety of instruments and styles for his sound. With a drum instrument called a doumbek or darbuka, his new group played Arabic-style beats. It appeared at one point that Taha might become an "overnight success", but after the release of the album Barbes, sales were disappointing in the United States, possibly because Americans were not keen on Arabic-sounding music during the time of the first Gulf War.

But American music audience were not ready for Arabic pop after the Gulf War, and Taha's 1991 album Barbes failed to sell well. In 1993, Taha again worked with Hillage who helped produce Taha's second solo album and helped him achieve "the kind of clubland-raï synthesis." Hillage worked on three solo Taha albums from 1993 to 2001, helping Taha return to his "north African roots". In 1995, he released his solo debut album entitled Olé Olé with Taha looking like an "Aryan androgyne" with dyed blond hair and blue contact lenses, to make a point about anti-Arab bigotry and at the "homophobia of North African culture." In 1997, his song Ya Rayah became a hit. He performed in the Canary Islands.

In 2001, Taha released Made in Medina, and a music critic commented that he used a "full and varied instrumental palette" along with "a dizzying vocal facility that transcends whatever style he's plugged." The album was recorded in Paris, New Orleans, and London with input from the American jam band Galactic. Taha saw parallels between African and American music and said "New Orleans is like Algiers ... They were both French colonies at one time, and there's even an area there called Algiers," and he noted that Louisiana Zydeco drum patterns were similar to raï music. Made in Medina combined Algerian roots, techno, pop music, and early rock and punk influences with "remarkable consistency" with previous works, according to Hillage. There were elements of political protest in his music leading a BBC critic to describe him as a "shit-disturbing artist who risks challenging his own culture as undemocratic." He wanted to record in New Orleans "because I see parallels between African and American music, and between the music of the African slaves who came to New Orleans, and that of the Gnawas, the black desert tribes who became slaves of the Arabs in north Africa. And New Orleans is like Algiers. They were both French colonies at one time, and there's even an area there called Algiers." He was delighted to find that some of the local Louisiana Zydeco drum patterns are remarkably similar to raï. A report in The Guardian suggested that Taha had achieved a cult status in pop music.
Guitarist Steve Hillage played a big role in Taha's career, primarily as a producer.

Taha's breakthrough album as a solo artist was his bestseller Diwân, featuring remakes of songs from Algerian and Arab traditions. The album featured traditional instruments like the oud but with a "contemporary veneer of programmed percussion and samples added in." Taha mixed the oud with strings using a contemporary beat along with guitar work, according to one account. Taha's album Tékitoi, produced by Steve Hillage and released in 2004, brought acclaim and recognition from other rock musicians. The title track is "street slang" meaning, roughly, Who the Hell Are You? (from the French Tu es qui, toi ? shortened into T'es qui, toi ?) and the music had "echoes of Joe Strummer", according to a review in The Observer. In 2005 Taha performed with Robert Plant, Patti Smith and Brian Eno. He covered The Clash song Rock the Casbah which he retitled with the Arabic name of Rock El Casbah. This song appeared in the 2007 film about Clash frontman Joe Strummer entitled The Future Is Unwritten. The song suggested rock music as "banned but unstoppable." And, in one concert, Taha performed the song along with The Clash musician Mick Jones. The Guardian selected Rock El Casbah as one of the top 50 cover songs.

Taha played in Morocco in 2005. In 2007, Taha performed in Canada and a reporter from the Montreal Gazette described his performance while wearing a "pewter pimp suit" which was "stunning":
“ Rachid Taha did not disappoint. ... Taha leaned into his cheerfully louche street persona. Taha dropped his hat on the mic stand. The percussion undulated in, the trumpet and keys re-creating a North African swirl. Ste. Catherine St. was a sea of clapping hands. Some fans tried to get an Algerian flag waving and abandoned it to dance. Taha brought the crowd down and then back up for coute-moi camarade, an irresistible bounce about female treachery from the Diwan 2 album. But given there is always a subtext to Taha’s music, the girls in the casbah danced to the blocked trumpet. Then Taha fell on his ass. -- Montreal Gazette, 2007 ”

Some critics attribute Taha's unique sound to his use of the mandolute, a mixture of the traditional oud with European fretted instruments. One critic described his arrangements as "no less bombastic" since they mixed North African rhythms and "string orchestra flourishes" with "pummeling big-beat techno, distorted electric guitars, snatches of Bo Diddley, Led Zeppelin and other macho sounds."

The song Barra Barra from his album Made in Medina was featured in the 2001 film Black Hawk Down as well as in the Games Convention 2008 trailer of the game Far Cry 2. It was featured in the 2007 film The Hunting Party. He performed with the band Dengue Fever.

His song Garab from Made in Medina was used in the movie The Truth About Charlie in 2002, and also in Blood and Chocolate in 2007. In 2008, Taha was growing increasingly prominent, with greater audiences in places such as Canada, although there were reports that his music had "trouble getting airplay" in France. He performed with Nigerian artists Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti and Seun Kuti. as well as Brian Eno in an anti-war concert in London. He was described as a ""wild Algerian punk fan" performing among a lineup which read like a "Who's Who of west African music", and was part of "Africa Express", a response to the lack of African musicians at Bob Geldof's Live 8 musical extravaganza.

In 2009, Taha released Bonjour which The Guardian music critic Robin Denselow described as "calmed down" under a new producer, Gaetan Roussel. Denselow wrote: "The result is an unlikely set in which Taha appears to be deliberately courting a new, wider market by playing down that wild rebel image." Denselow felt the music was more "commercial" and "not his most exciting." It included a "rousing tribute" on his cover song Rock El Casbah to the late Clash guitarist Joe Strummer. In 2010, Taha played in Toronto to large audiences. Taha performed with Algerian artist Mehdi Haddab who plays the oud. Taha's song "Habina" was featured in the 2010 film, "It's Kind of a Funny Story." Guitarist Carlos Santana recorded his song Migra which went on to sell over 25 million copies. In 2011, Taha is touring the United States
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