Rachid Taha, the French-Algerian singer best known for fusing rock with raï, a form of traditional Algerian folk, has died from a heart attack at age 59.
“It is with regret and immense sadness that his son Lyes, his family and relatives, his friends and his record label Naïve, announce the death of artist Rachid Taha, following a heart attack overnight at his home in the Lilas [near Paris],” the singer’s family wrote in a statement on Wednesday.
Taha was born in 1958 in Algeria but moved to Lyon, France with his family at age 10. His Algerian roots played an integral role in his formative music: In his early Twenties, he founded the nightclub Les Refoulés (“The Rejects”), where he created multi-cultural mash-ups by splicing elements of Arabic pop songs with backbeats from artists like Led Zeppelin, Bo Diddley and Kraftwerk, The Independent reports.
Singing in both English and Arabic, Taha rose to prominence as the frontman of Carte de Sejour, citing the Clash as a chief influence. He famously met the band in 1981 before a gig in Paris and handed them a demo tape – an event that Taha believes may have inspired the Clash’s 1982 hit “Rock the Casbah.” (He covered the song as a solo artist in 2004, re-titling it “Rock El Casbah.”)
Taha emerged as a solo artist in the late Eighties, collaborating with an eclectic group of Western rock artists on his nine studio LPs. Steve Hillage, former guitarist of psych-prog outfit Gong, produced the majority of Taha’s catalog, which veered from punk to raï to electronica. The singer’s final LP, 2013’s Zoom, featured guest spots from Brian Eno and Clash guitarist Mick Jones.
Prior to his death, Taha was reportedly preparing to release a new album, Believe.
Rachid Taha – “Ya Rayah”
Rachid Taha – “Now or Never”