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Rachid Taha
Wrasse (www.wrasserecords.com)

cd cover While it's hard to still think of him as a punk at 46, after over 20 years in the business, Rachid Taha continues to tweak Western preconceptions of what it means to be an Arab living in the west. This is most notable on "Rock El Casbah," a remake of the hit made famous by the Clash; in which he simultaneously embraces what has essentially become an advertising slogan, while giving it a Middle Eastern makeover. He's been banned for doing this in the past, when he took Charles Trenet's bucolic ode "Douce France" and turned it into an ironic commentary on the treatment of Algerian immigrants.

The title song "Tékitoi? (Who Are You?)" also touches on the immigrant experience; with a confrontational exchange between a young Frenchman and an Algerian. The idea being that confrontation is an important first step in the healing process. However, this in your face attitude can be a bit much for an entire CD, with parts sounding more like AC/DC than Aisha Kandisha.

The enclosed DVD is a bit friendlier; chronicling the band's tour of Mexico and the at times amusing culture clashes that ensue. The press conference segments are especially odd, with Taha speaking French followed by a Spanish interpreter and subtitled in English. Well, mostly in English. At one point the subtitles lapse into French.

On screen, Taha comes off as a happy go lucky guy; chain smoking his way through Old Mexico, while getting to know the locals by dancing in a square with an older woman wearing a dress seemingly made entirely of neckties, and shopping for Osmond Brothers 45s in Spanish. He also gets down with a local woman on stage, who, like Taha, is pushing the envelope of youthful exuberance. In the interviews we learn that he's mystified why people view him as a world musician, as he thinks of himself as a rocker, and apparently an American; albeit an American who doesn't live here much.

The whole thing is not really a concert video. The audio from the live performances is often distorted and few songs are played in their entirety, as it's the kind of behind the scenes look at a tour that often gets distributed in press kits. One comes away with the impression of a performer who has been at this for a bit longer than would conventionally be considered seemly, and finds himself playing to smaller and smaller crowds in the provinces as a result. - Eric Iverson

CD available from cdRoots

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