Rachid Taha’s The Definitive Collection

Rachid Taha

The Definitive Collection (Wrasse 182, 2007)

Hot on the heels of Diwan 2 and no doubt released to coincide with the now obligatory Rachid Taha fever that erupted at his Barbican (London) concert in early April, this compilation tears through fifteen tracks culled from seven of his albums prior to Diwan 2. Definitive it can never be but it’s respectable starter pack for those new to Taha. And of course it has to start with the dolorous Ya Rayah, bizarrely mistranslated in the track listing as Party (a more accurate translation is, ‘Oh, The One Who Leaves’).

Equally familiar are the elegant and sexy rhythms of Nokta and the largely instrumental surf sound of Jungle Fiction with Rachid occasionally hollering in the background, both from Olé Olé(1995). Possibly less well known is Barbés (1990), the title track from his first solo album; accompanied by accordion, it’s a wonderfully wild celebration of the diversity of this immigrant quarter of Paris, produced by the legendary Godwin Logie before the days of Taha‘s association with Steve Hillage. 

The track with the most curious history of all is the sing-along Douce France. Originally a single by Taha ’s first band, Carte De Sejour (uncredited on this compilation), and included in their second album, Deux et Demi, this tongue-firmly-in-ironic-cheek take on chanteur Charles Trenet’s grossly sentimental post World War II ballad (1947) caused controversy on its release in 1986 and was distributed by the then French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, and Charles Trenet himself to Representatives of the French National Assembly prior to the debate of the Nationality Bill. Die-hard fans, who have heard it all before, will appreciate the DVD of Rachid’s Algerian tour more. But don’t expect much in the way of music on this; all we get are snippets in the background from Diwan 2 and snatches of his stage repertoire, with typically manic performances.

Originally released in France only, as part of the Diwan 2 package, this limited edition has English subtitles. And just as well, Rachid, talking to anyone and everyone, expounds on an entertaining and meandering choice of subject matter as he mooches around in both tourist and celeb mode – observations on storks, Mars, exile, childhood memories, the current state of Algeria – ‘He’s a frank talker’, says one bemused interviewer – and on the forests of satellite dishes festooning buildings in Oran.

In France the DVD was titled Ma Parabole D’Honneur, My Satellite Dish Of Honour, Rachid’s pun on ma parole d’honneur, my word of honor.

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