Algerian-born Arabic / French singer Rachid Taha is known for his highly energetic and innovative blend of both music influences.
His East-meets-West style (dubbed "Rock & Raï") often incorporates Punk, electronic music, Arabic percussion and North African string instruments behind Arab and French lyrics.
Saturday Night Live used his serious music to humorous effect in their wacky "Les Jeunes de Paris" skit featuring guest host Miley Cyrus.
Taha's immigrant identity has always been a huge part of his music. He moved from Algeria to Lyon, France when he was 10. In 1980, he and two other friends formed an Arabic-language Clash-inspired band called Carte de Sejour (what Americans would call a "Green Card").
Taha has always been known as an activist singer with blunt lyrics, calling out oppression and discrimination toward North African immigrants and their descendants in France. In many ways, his 6th solo studio album, Tekitoi, presaged the riots that took place in the Paris suburbs a year later after its release, in 2005.
Broken down, the phonetic title track is "T'es qui toi" in French, meaning "Who are you?" However with it's brash delivery, it's more like "Who the heck are you?" The song is a duet with Taha and Christian Olivier lobbing questions at each other, and it also includes Arabic lyrics.
Unbeknownst to Saturday Night Live, they took somewhat of a protest song and used it as a soundtrack to portray in every French stereotype known to man. While dancing to "Tékitoi," the kids have a "paint-off" and eat whole crepes in one bite. A mime appeared at one point, and there was lots and lots of red wine.
I definitely liked the first Les Jeune skit with the Camille song better, but I lurve Taran Killam and I'm glad to see him getting his shine. He's perfect for these offbeat skits.
Check out the original video for "Tékitoi" by Rachid Taha, the title track from his 6th studio album. The sense of tension and dischord is more in line with what the song is designed to invoke -- SNL silliness notwithstanding.
Taha is still doing his thing. His latest album (his 9th) is called Zoom, and features the artist getting back to basics with the kind of funked up Rock and Fusion that his fans have come to love. "Zoom Sur Oum" is a tribute to Egyptian singer Oum Khalthoum, while "Now or Never" is spiced up French remake of the Elvis classic, showcasing the sounds of the oud (Arab guitar). Both are perfect soundtracks for an evening at a hookah lounge.
The single "Voilà, voilà, que ça recommence!" is so groovy that's one might not even realize it touts an anti-racism message. The video features cameos by lots of musical artists including Camélia Jordana, Oxmo Puccino, and Femi Kuti.
Download: "Zoom Sur Oum," "Now or Never," "Voilà, voilà, que ça recommence!"