On air
  • RFI English Live
  • RFI French Live

Algeria France Music Obituary

Issued on • Modified

French raï, rock star Rachid Taha dies, aged 59

Rachid Taha performs at the Solidays festival in 2001 Photo by Julien Hekimian/Sygma/Corbis/Sygma via Getty Images

France-based Algerian singer Rachid Taha has died at the age of 59. His career combined music with anti-racist activism.

Taha's sudden death from a heart attack, was announced on Wednesday in a statement on his record label Naive's Facebook page.

Born in Algeria, Rachid Taha arrived in France at the age of 10.

During his early 20s, he founded the nightclub Les Refoulés (The Rejects) where he created mixes Arabic pop set to backbeats of rock, like Led Zeppelin.

Rachid Taha performs for RFI

The early 80s saw him form his first group called Carte de Séjour (Work Permit), which attracted attention for participating in a famous demonstration against racism in 1983.

The 80s saw him rise to become one of the major rock figures in France, especially after his band released a remake of the song Douce France (Sweet France), written by the legendary Charles Trenet, which ruffled a few feathers by its sly reference to the immigrant experience and France's relationship to Algeria.

By 1989 he went solo, staying true to his punk and rock roots but also to his north African origins, primarily raï, Algerian indigenous pop music, which was winning international recognition in the 80s.

His unique blend of the two worlds granted him the status of King of Raï as he paved the way for other musicians.

One of his better known songs, Al Rayah, released in 1997, reflected these two musical worlds.

Rachid Taha, a life in dates

18 September 1958: Born in Sig, near Oran;

1968: Moves to Alsace in France with his parents, educated at Catholic school;

1979: Leaves home, becomes rep for publisher;

1981: Starts work in Thermix factory in Lyon, where he meets Mohammed and Moktar Amini with whom he forms the group Carte de Séjour;

1982: Jérôme Savy joins Carte de Séjour;

1998: Carte de Séjour releases album Diwan and live album 1,2,3 Soleil;

2004: Releases album Tékitoi;

2009: Releases album Bonjour;

2013: Releases solo album Zoom;

2015: Receives French music award Les Victoires de la Musique for lifetime achievement;

2017: Starts group Couscous Clan;

12 September 2018: Dies of a heart attack at his home in Les Lilas, on the outskirts of Paris.