chapter  7
22 Pages

Rachid Taha and the Postcolonial Presence in French Popular Music

This chapter considers the work of Rachid Taha from a postcolonial perspective. Taha is the most well-known French-Algerian musician working in popular music in France and now has a considerable following in the Anglophone world. There has been little sustained academic writing about Taha with the important exception of an article by Christa Jones in which she argues that: ‘Rachid Taha est un muscien foncièrement cosmopolite, urbain et à la fois complètement déterritoralisé’ [‘Rachid Taha is a fundamentally cosmopolitan musician, urban and yet completely deterritorialized’] (2009, p. 112, italics in original). 1 I am most concerned with the ways in which Taha’s music expresses the experience of being identified as neither French nor Algerian while also feeling that both heritages are central to his identity as a beur. I focus specifically on an understanding of Taha’s work in terms of métissage, hybridity. Starting from a track on Carte de Séjour’s first album, Rhorhomanie, which uses phrases from Arabic, French and English, I go on to examine examples of recordings in which Taha has offered a revisioning of already well-known songs: Carte de Séjour’s version of Charles Trenet’s ‘Douce France’ (‘Sweet France’), Taha’s version of Dahmane el Harrachi’s ‘Ya Rayah’ and, finally, Taha’s version of The Clash’s ‘Rock the Casbah’.