[photo: Rex Features]

My latest article for The National can be viewed online here. I look back at the career of Rachid Taha.


To call him a rock star is to overlook his success in the Arab world as an innovative reinterpreter of rai and chaabi. To label him a pioneering figure in Arab-technopop is to forget the long shadow cast on him by The Clash and other spiky political rockers. And if he’s a rebel, then why all the lush, respectful cover versions from decades past?

Here’s the original version of ‘Ya Menfi’ (The Exiled / The Fugitive), performed by its author, Kabyle musician Akli Yahlatene: “The chains weigh tons. . . / The soup is mere water with cockroaches swimming in the dish.” Yahlatene sings about Algerians in France imprisoned, punished, or killed for their involvement in the Algerian War. Decolonization struggle words; you can think of ‘Ya Menfi’ as a musical counterpart to Franz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, of which Sarte said

…and Taha’s reverent take on ‘The Exiled’, from his 1998 album Diwan:


two pieces of mine are currently in print:

“Laulu Laakason Kukista”, a consideration of Paavoharju’s 2008 album, can be found in the current issue of Frieze. (not online)

“Mould has conquered the cave studio”, reports Lauri Ainala.


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and Past Masters, a piece about the Master Musicians of Ja.. Jou…. Zahjhouka, in The National.


[Brigitte Engl / Redferns]

It’s a hippie’s dream: a brotherhood of musicians live together, exempt from work. They hang out all day, drinking tea, smoking weed, jamming.