Rachid Taha (Arabic: ???? ??) (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.Raï rootsIn the 1980s, Algeria's indigenous pop music known as raï began to achieve international attention. Originally raï music was based on "city slickers adapting music from the sticks" and was described as ribald, but it became more of a medium for political protest when young people in the 1960s and 1970s used it to "express their anger and desires." 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 "Morocco's answer to the Beatles or the Stones."Carte de SéjourIn 1981, while living in Lyon, Taha met Mohammed and Mokhtar Amini and the three of them, along with Djamel Dif and Eric Vaquer would soon form a band. 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 often refused to stock their records "because they didn't want Arabs coming in to their shops." There was little money; the band performed in suburbs of Lyons. Taha took a standard patriotic French song entitled Sweet France (in French: Douce France) which had originally been recorded by Charles Trenet in the 1940s, kept the lyrics, but sang it with "furious irony" which irritated many French listeners, particularly coming from a "scruffy, bohemian-looking Arabic singer," to the point where Taha's version was banned from French radio. The "acerbic" song created a "splash", nevertheless, and won Taha some recognition as a serious artist. The group never achieved much 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, and later as an encyclopedia salesperson. 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. In 1986, his "sneering punk-rock cover of Douce France" was seen as an "unmistakable protest against the nation's treatment of its immigrant underclass," and caused consternation in French political circles. 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 front-page story that Taha was Egyptian rather than Algerian, but later posted a correction. Later, in 2007, Taha-as-an-immigrant was mentioned in France's 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 (Five) was released in 1986. The band dissolved in 1989.Solo yearsIn 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.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.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":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 recent years, Taha toured nations including the United States and Dubai.ReviewsMusic critic Philip Brasor in Japan Times commented that Taha's album Made in Medina featured Arabic "chanting" which was meant to evoke "the generalized chaos of society" and which features "heart-stopping break beats, flamenco guitar, African choruses, crunching hard rock and the inevitable sappy love song."Music critic Robin Denselow felt Taha's Bonjour album was calm -- "he switches between Arabic and French in this mix of pleasant ballads and novelty pop, with just the occasional reminder of the old passion and anger." Denselow felt his album Tékitoi (2004) was his "most powerful, direct fusion of rock and north African styles to date." Denselow wrote:New York Times wrote about Taha's song Ah Mon Amour:BBC News music critic Martin Vennard described Taha's music as a "seductive mixture of traditional North African, rock, techno and dance music."Canadian music critic Philly Markowitz named a Taha album one of the best in 2005.French music critic Amobe Mevegue described Taha as an "eclectic artist".Personal lifeTaha has been described as "gregarious" and "quick with a smile" who likes to party throughout the night. He has a cosmopolitan group of friends including a French girlfriend who recently attended Brown University in the United States. Taha was quoted as saying "I've never wanted to just stay in my own neighborhood, my own community ... It's a kind of conformism. You have to be adventurous." He does not like contemporary French cinema and said "I'd much rather watch some dumb Hollywood movie than another haute bourgeois auteurist piece of crap." He has been a critic of the Bush administration although he has made comments favoring a bombing raid on Iran, and said that "Iran shouldn't be allowed to have nukes."