Rachid Taha

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Bonjour Review

by Jeff Tamarkin

Bonjour is a different kind of Rachid Taha album. Until now, the Algerian-born singer (who has resided in France since his childhood) has made his most significant impact by fusing traditional Algerian raï music with rock on albums such as Diwan, Made in Medina, and Tékitoi -- his cover of the Clash's "Rock the Casbah" on the latter helped establish Taha in markets he was previously unable to penetrate (Taha, in fact, looks oddly like Joe Strummer as a cabaret singer on this album's cover). Bonjour is a less aggressive album -- not a bad one, or even a disappointing one, just less frenetic and less engaging overall. Relieving longtime producer Steve Hillage of his duties and replacing him with Gaetan Roussel, a popular French singer, Taha seems to have taken the opportunity to try on a new persona as well. He also recorded the set in New York, but despite that, there is less of a Western influence on the album: there's a near-complete dearth of English-language lyrics, and more use of Arabic instrumentation than in recent years marking the cautious transformation. The title track, sporting a nearly giddy, very Parisian rhythm, would seem aimed directly at Taha's home-country audience, while "It's an Arabian Song," despite the infusion of a subdued grunge guitar lick and tacky synth line, is a lightweight, rhythmically static dance number. There are several tracks of note: "Agi," the set's closing tune, is a pretty acoustic ballad, and "Ila Liqa" sports colorful atmospherics that give it more sonic depth than much of the rest of the record. Taha doesn't sound lost in this new, less rocking guise, but neither is he entirely convincing in his attempts to broaden his appeal with a more pop/dance-oriented sound.

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