Rachid Taha

It was announced a couple of days ago that Rachid Taha had died aged 59. Rachid was an Algerian singer and activist, based in France, who blended punk and electronic music with North African forms rai and chaabi. Moving to Lyon aged 10 he started forming bands in his teens, djed at local Algerian clubs, and sang in both Arabic and English. In the early 80s he found The Clash and said that for a generation of French musicians ‘they gave us the world’. He bumped into the band outside the Theatre Mogador in Paris during their residency there in 1981, passing them his band’s demo tape, fusing rai with funk and punk. Months later he heard Rock The Casbah and liked to imagine his demo tape had at least partly inspired the song.

Like many people I first heard of Rachid when he covered Rock The Casbah on his 2004 album Tekitoi, sung it in Arabic and re-titled Rock el Casbah, a magnificent cover of the song. A year later at a Stop The War gig in London Mick Jones joined Rachid on stage (and did the same at the Barbican in 2007).  Life goals eh?
RIP Rachid.

Rock el Casbah

The video for the original release, a song largely written and recorded by Topper Headon, is a hoot, starring the group in their full on military fatigues gear, a grumpy Mick Jones, a heavy handed Arab-Israeli section and an armadillo. It’s also a lesson in songs gaining a life or meaning not intended by the creators- Joe sat aghast watching his TV in 1991 as US troops used it to celebrate bombing Iraq.