East Meets West

Issue section: 
(290)

Review of 'Tékitoi?' by Rachid Taha

One of the most exhilarating things about the global justice movement is the opening up of different worlds and stepping into them through music.

Taha's world is very different to ours and on first listening to his music we had to sit down and rest! The fusion of rai (north African/French modal music), Middle Eastern music, rock, punk, hip-hop and American funk and soul combined a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar sounds. Rachid's friend in the accompanying DVD describes how because his music comes from elsewhere it disrupts the system.

Rachid Taha's family experience as Algerian immigrants living in France is one of the main influences in his passion both for music, and for music as political expression. His Arab roots together with the influence of rock and punk have led to a blending of sounds that is musically multilingual. His early music has been described as 'burning with the fire of a young immigrant generation exploding with the anger of punk'. His first band, formed in the mid-1980s, Carte de Séjour (Green Card) made an ironic cover of the patriotic 'Douce France', a song made popular at the time of the Resistance. It was a response to the racist nationalism of the Front National.

Tékitoi? follows the theme of identity and musical fusion. The title, meaning 'Who are you?' to which he answers, 'You're me and I'm you', confronts the idea that we are simply defined by religion or race. Just as he protests against Islamophobia, he is also worried by the rise of anti-Semitism in France that is sometimes the response when immigrant communities close in on themselves. In France this is exacerbated by the response of the left in supporting the state racism that has led to the banning of religious apparel in schools.

The album is an unapologetic expression of protest. The lyrics are in French, Arabic, Spanish and English. The song 'Lli fat mat!' challenges the idea that everything bad is a result of colonialism. He's saying that we need to look at what national ruling classes and governments are doing today and fight against that also.

The song 'Rock El Casbah', is a musical linking of west and east and a tribute to Joe Strummer of The Clash, who Taha respects for never having sold out. The song is an emotive reminder of rebellious youth and will have you dancing round your front room, whatever age you are!

However, it would be simplistic, and a failure to do justice to the music, to only describe this as a protest album. There are songs of hope and love recognising, as Taha himself says, 'that despite all the closed doors and all the despair, hope exists too'. Rachid Taha refuses to stay within the box. Listen to this album!