CD: Rachid Taha - Zoom | New music reviews, news & interviews
CD: Rachid Taha - Zoom
A sophisticated feast of rock and North African sounds
Unlike the Rai masters Khaled and Mami, who grew up in Algeria and are slightly uncomfortable with the audience-winning slide into rock, Rachid Taha is a beur, a North African born in France, raised on punk but with a thorough knowledge of his heritage: for him, music has always combined partying with political protest, fuelled by the righteous frustration of the second generation immigrant.
On stage, Taha is an erratic performer: some of his gigs are magical invocations in which supercharged rock energy meets the complex rhythms of the Maghreb, and the singer darts around the stage displaying shamanic charisma. At other times this explosive cocktail misfires and things fall apart. He has always done well in the studio, not least with a series of rave-tinged albums produced by Steve Hillage. He has known Justin Adams, who has produced Zoom, for years, and they clearly inspire each other. Adams is Robert Plant’s guitarist of choice, and knows his rock and blues licks well. He is also a former member of Jah Wobble’s groundbreaking Invaders of the Heart. Last but not least, he knows North African music intimately - the trance-inducing music of the Gnaoua, the lilt of chaabi and the bottled-up emotion of Rai.
Zoom is a feast of different sounds, all of them true to Rachid Taha’s diverse but related musical passions. He is joined by Mick Jones on a couple of more rock-infused tracks, including the poetic song of protest, “Voila Voila”. Sultry-voiced Chaba Fadela, whose “N’sel Fik” was one of the first big Rai hits, joins him on “Khalouni”. There is a curious arabising version of Elvis Presley’s hit “It’s Now or Never” and the frantic Cajun-style two-step “Fakir”, in which Taha rants seductively in the classic beur hybrid of French and street Arab. The lolloping beat of “Ana” has a distinct country feel.
Twenty-first century popular music is an art without frontiers, and this is an album that shines because of its mastery and range. Taha navigates the global ocean well, without ever succumbing to the fast-fix gimmickry of forced fusion. Behind its sparkle and fireworks, Zoom oozes sophistication and taste.
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