Rachid Taha: Riverside Theatre

Rachid ambles onto the stage to a pulse of distorted guitars, heavy drum backbeat peppered with darabukka and duf percussion, a wash of samples worthy of a Cairo string orchestra and the heart wrenching riffs of a master mandolute (oud) player.
Rachid Taha: Riverside Theatre
Rachid Taha: Riverside Theatre Rachid Taha is an Algerian born musician who grew up in the immigrant suburbs of Paris where he imbibed the traditional music of his native country (he was born in Oran, the ancestral home of the Bedouin derived music referred to as raï) in bars and cafes surrounded by working people whose hands and feet were assigned to building a new life in Europe but whose hearts and minds longed for the left behind. He also imbibed the music of the Sex Pistols and The Clash and it is this fusion of filthy rock and North African soul that defines the artist Rachid Taha, appearing for two concerts only as part of Brian Eno's Vivid Festival. I was lucky enough to catch Taha at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta, a more intimate venue better suited to his mode of performance than the Sydney Opera House where he appeared earlier in the week. Rachid ambles onto the stage to a pulse of distorted guitars, heavy drum backbeat peppered with darabukka and duf percussion, a wash of samples worthy of a Cairo string orchestra and the heart wrenching riffs of a master mandolute (oud) player. It is a wicked, dirty sound perfectly suited to the front man, all top hat, stubble and lewd grin. His voice is a gravel posesis, growly and guttural; anger soaked in rose water syrup. The songs are about lost love - of a girl, a friend, a country, himself - and he pours them out onto the unsuspecting audience (up and dancing during the first few bars) as if upending a bottle of whiskey. Listen to me friend, forget about this girl he sings in French, then in Arabic What is living for if not to get one's kicks, especially from the beloved. He struts (badly), he rambles in Arabo-French, he spits (a lot), he smiles and flirts and he cajoles and conducts his band like a sparking lightning rod. He is an artist entirely possessed of the music and equally in possession of himself - shambolic, rude, sweet and tender. Taha's music is a cultural and political collision of catastrophic proportions. The man is a danger to society in just the right measure for these times when Wall Street's 'white bread dreaming' is going up in smoke and on the very day Obama addresses the Muslim world from Cairo. Rachid Taha is the Franco-Algerian clown sent to mock and rock us from our comfy theatre seats. His final song? Rock el Casbah - dedicated to Joe Strummer. Do yourself a favour: Find Rachid Taha. Artist: Rachid Taha Venue: Riverside Theatre, Parramatta Presenter: Vivid Festival June 5th in Melbourne at: the Prince of Wales, Bandroom - St. Kilda

Boris Kelly

Friday 5 June, 2009

About the author

Boris Kelly is a Sydney-based writer.