This is an interview with French Algerian performer Rachid Taha that I did for Inpress in Melbourne. It’s only short and was not particularly flowing due to having to go through a tranaslator, yet I was so taken with his last album Diwan 2 that I was very excited to have the opportunity to speak with him.
Rachid Taha is a musical maverick, the Algerian born French raised vocalist and band leader effectively melding numerous genres of music together including traditional North African folk, punk rock, funk and electronic music, all tied together under his distinctive gravelly whiskey soaked vocals. He’s a man who’s bought into the rock and roll dream and his stage performance is renowned for his bedraggled appearance and confrontational attitude. Yet he’s also one of the few artists who have effectively married the seemingly disparate musical traditions of North African music and Western rock, and made this middle ground his own. His music is often intensely political with a social conscious, drawing upon his immigrant past, racism and intolerance.
Bob: Do you believe that music has the power to change things in society?
Rachid: It has the power from time to put a band aid.
Bob: Is that what you feel like you’re doing with your music at times?
Rachid: Music from time to time cures headaches but as you know headaches always comes back. It’s cured the migranes.
Bob: It’s medicine.
Rachid: From time to time to time
Bob: Your music mixes funk and politics is this an important and conscious mix?
Rachid: There’s nothing better than a hard beat and because I’m a bit of a union person, a militant when you’re fighting for your rights and I love having a slogan.
Bob: Rock and punk seem to be very important to you. What is it about those styles that interests you so much?
Rachid: It’s because it’s youth it’s memories. I grew up with rock and roll and punk, that’s why it’s one of the main ingredients
Bob: How did the decisions come about it to link it with traditional instruments like oud or darbuka?
Rachid: It started from the begginning with my first band, Resident Permit the traditional music was there. It’s like a friend that never leaves. It’s a mix of couscous and hamburger. When I was going out clubbing I was listening to funk music but when I was coming back to my parents house I was listening to traditional music. There is no problem for me to go from one to another. It was part of my natural environment.
Bob: Your music touches upon many different genres across all of your albums. Is it important to change styles regularly?
Rachid: I hate serving the same dishes.
Bob: I know you’ve worked with western musicians like Eno, Robert Plant or Steve Hillage. What do you get from collaborations with new people?
Rachid: It brings me some ingredients. I want to keep talking about food because I love cooking. Brian Eno, Steve Hillage or Robert Plant they’re like spices.
Bob: Okay then, well I’ve seen a picture of you kissing Brian Eno’s head. What does it taste like?
Rachid: It tastes like salt and pepper. (laughter)
Bob: Just before this interview I was watching some of your You-tube performances. People seem to be concerned that you drink too much before your performances.
Rachid: It’s probably my Australian side sometimes (laughter), people always leave comments and I don’t want to go into the drinking conversation but they probably saw me once and I was drunk. I’m only human that’s what happened.
Bob: Who is in your band that you’ll bring out to Australia. What instruments?
Rachid: There will be traditional instruments, also guitar, bass and drums are also traditional for me.
Bob: Have you played with them for a long time?
Rachid: With Akim it has been 15 years, At least 5 years they’ve been playing with me, but for two it is 15 years.
Bob: How does this time transalte into the music?
Rachid: It translates via real complicity, a real understanding.
Bob: What kind of material can we expect?
Rachid: Some new tunes and it depends on how much time I’ve got but I’ll also plays songs from the older albums.
Rachid Taha is playing Friday 5th June, Prince Bandroom, Melbourne, with special guest Systa BB
He is also appearing at the Luminous Festival.