Rachid Taha is not the first artist to blend Arab and Western musical styles, but he is certainly one of the most innovative. Born in Algeria, but residing in France since age ten, Taha fronted a highly political punk band in his teens, then made his mark as an equally radical DJ before launching a solo career. Made in Medina is the latest in his string of crossover creations. Recorded on three continents and four countries (U.S., U.K., France, and Morocco), utilizing musicians from equally far flung locales, and overseen by long-time producer Steve Hillage, the album is brimming with the exotic and the familiar. With lyrics in English, French, and, at one point, Berber, the sleeve notes provide English translations and explain the songs' core message and musical roots. Like a sumptuous banquet, Medina is a rich mix of dishes, one that will tempt even the most jaded palette. Inevitably, it will be branded world music, a label guaranteed to scare off much of Taha's prospective audience. There's crunching punk numbers, as hardcore as any anarcho-punk band's, but sliced with techno beats, sure to appeal to Prodigy fans. Spanish-flavored numbers are perfect for the salsa crowd, Afro-pop with a syncopated beat are sure to capture reggae fans, and there's even a space rock number for the ambient/prog rockers. With lyrical themes that run the gambit from alienation to the spiritual, Taha's appeal across genres is evident. And while it may sound like a shopping list for an international emporium, in fact, Medina has an extremely coherent sound, built on prominent, danceable rhythms, strong melodies, and powerful vocals, all shot through with a Middle Eastern flavor. A truly world sound.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene