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Rock and rai - Beirut prepares for Rachid Taha

Prepare yourselves for an electronic Rai rock revolution. It isn't often that Lebanon gets a musical heartthrob coming to visit but Monday one very special man will be in town.

Algerian worldbeat artist Rachid Taha plays Beirut's Music Hall for one night only on his international tour to promote the new album "Tekitoi."

Following up on last year's Generation Musiques Festival organized by the French Cultural Center in Lebanon and Music Hall, Taha is the first in what is hoped will be a series of shows to rock the capital this summer.

Born in the Gulf of Oran during the peak of the independence war era, Taha moved with his family to France as a child, where he worked as as a dishwasher, cook and factory worker before landing a gig as a DJ at a small local club. Forming the group Carte de Sejour (or Resident Card named because the singer experienced the tough life of an immigrant in France), Taha attempted to create a style of Arabic rock music heavily influenced by the Algerian Rai sound and eventually in 1990 he went solo, moving into dance music.

Working with acclaimed producer Steve Hillage, his self-titled first album in 1995 made waves and led to three more successful records - the 1996 "Ole Ole," 1998's "Diwan" and his 2000 release "Made in Medina." The latter, an eclectic effort of mixed cultural influences from Paris, London, Marrakesh and New Orleans where the album was recorded is a perfect example of world fusion music.

The songs on "Tekitoi" which he will perform on June 13 as well as his old favorites, embody a sound that can be heard in Arabic Rai clubs from Algiers to Istanbul based on the complex rhythms of North Africa and the Middle East.

With raucous guitars, masses of drum machines, synythesizers and electronic samples Taha makes traditional sounds into modern danceable beats and his crooning voice roots the music in ancient sounds.

The highlight of the night may well be Taha's brilliant and sarcastic reworking of The Clash's classic "Rock the Casbah." Check it out.

Rachid Taha plays at Beirut's Music Hall in Downtown on Monday June 13, Tickets cost LL30,000 and are available at the Virgin Megastore on +961 1 999666.

Beirut 12-06-2005
Ramsay Short
The Daily Star



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