Words by Nige Tassell
Rachid Taha’s first album in four years is not quite in the same bracket as Muhammad Ali’s retrieval of the World Heavyweight Championship in 1974, as the press release would have you believe. But, following a few troubled years and 2009’s weak Bonjour, it is a re-emergence worth our attention.
There’s a swagger about the 2013 version of Taha that will reassure his fans. He’s clearly not content to fade away, his fire still evident in that Gauloise-seasoned voice, somewhere midway between Serge Gainsbourg and Joe Strummer, with all its retained rasp and bite. Andhe’s still comfortable in both camps, the Arab world and the West. One moment he’s calling up the ghost of Oum Kalthoum by sampling her on ‘Zoom Sur Oum’, the next he’s radically overhauling Elvis’ ‘Now or Never’ into a slow-burner of oud and darbuka.
Any comeback is certainly aided by having Justin Adams in the producer’s chair: it’s a rare beast indeed that can match Taha’s credentials when it comes to welding the music of North Africa to rock guitars. And if having Robert Plant’s guitarist-of-choice in charge wasn’t enough, The Clash’s Mick Jones is also invited to the party. Not that the invites stop there. Among those sharing lead vocals on the closing bonus track are Brian Eno, Femi Kuti and Eric Cantona, in a multi-voiced reprise of Taha’s anti-racism anthem ‘Voilà Voilà’.
While not quite packing the knockout blows of earlier records like Made in Medina, Zoom’s propulsion, energy and modernity has brought the real Rachid Taha back to us. Welcome home.
TRACK TO TRY: Fakir
(On Wrasse Records)