Rachid Taha is an Algerian singer and activist based in France who has been described as sonically adventurous. His music is influenced by different styles such as rock, electronic, punk. Taha was born in 1958 in Sig, Algeria, although a second source suggests he was born in the Algerian seacoast city of Oran and this town was the birthplace of raï music, and 1958 was a key year in the Algerian struggle for independence against French authority. He began listening to Algerian music in the 1960s, including street-style music called chaabi, and music from the Maghreb region was part of his upbringing. He moved with his parents to France when he was ten years old and his father was a textile factory worker, with long hours and low pay, such that his life was compared to that of a modern slave, according to one account. The contrast between menial work during the day and fun during the night may have helped to develop his musical sensibility. In the late 1970s, Taha founded the nightclub called The Rejects or, in French, Les Refoulés, in the 1980s, Algerias indigenous pop music known as raï began to achieve international attention. Taha has suggested that Algerian musical styles and rock are closely linked, Taha was influenced by the North African raï band Nass El Ghiwane which was described as Moroccos answer to the Beatles or the Stones. In 1981, while living in Lyon, Taha met Mohammed and Mokhtar Amini, in 1982, Taha was the lead vocalist for the Arab-language rock group which they named Carte de Sejour, meaning Green Card or Residence Permit depending on the translation. He sang in both English and Arabic, but usually in Arabic, Taha was inspired by the group The Clash, Taha met members of the group The Clash in Paris, Taha believes his early recordings helped to inspire The Clash to create the song Rock the Casbah. A New York Times music reporter wrote, These were difficult years since record stores refused to stock their records because they didnt want Arabs coming in to their shops. There was little money, the band performed in suburbs of Lyon, the acerbic song created a splash, nevertheless, and won Taha some recognition as a serious artist. The group never achieved commercial success and, as a result, Taha had to work a series of day jobs in a factory, then as a house painter, a dishwasher. They recorded their first maxi album Carte De Séjour in 1983, in 1984, with the help of British guitarist Steve Hillage, the group achieved a sharp, driving sound which played well on the radio, and the LP was entitled Rhoromanie. In his songwriting, Taha wrote about living in exile and the cultural strife associated with being an Algerian immigrant in France and his song Voilà, Voilà, protested racism. Taha has had to cope with anti-Arab sentiment and confusion, for example, the New York Times stated in a story that Taha was Egyptian rather than Algerian. Later, in 2007, Taha-as-an-immigrant was mentioned in Frances National Center of the History of Immigration, when performing live, Taha wore various outfits, including at one point a leather fedora hat, then later a red cowboy hat. Their second and last LP entitled Ramsa was released in 1986, in 1989, Taha moved to Paris to launch his solo career
Image: Rachid Taha
Taha grew up in the seaside Algerian city of Oran.