Rachid Taha: A Migrant's Voice. Music, Place, Performance and Identity 1979-2018

Lead Research Organisation: Open University
Department Name: Faculty of Arts and Social Sci (FASS)


Prominent French-Algerian songwriter, performer and activist Rachid Taha (1958-2018) was born in Oran, Algeria, migrating to France aged 10. Primarily fusing Western rock music genres and traditional Arab/Maghrebi styles, his career spanned 39 years amounting to over 250 songs across 19 albums. His provocative, ironic and often subversive hybridised music (also consciously choosing to primarily sing in darja-an Algerian dialect merging Arabic with French), performance and identity confronted the French public with its stereotype of the non-integrated migrant, challenged France's rock music conventions while simultaneously marginalising the majority of the Arab-speaking world. Employing a novel interdisciplinary theoretical framework, I aim to explore how his experience of migration from Algeria and exile in France as well as asserted identity-"Algerian forever, French everyday" -is represented in his merging of music genres (rock, punk, and electronica with raï and other Arab/Maghrebi styles) and life-long activism.
While studies on music artists originating from post-colonial or French-speaking (Francophone) countries are found, scholarship on Taha is sparse and limited to notions of 'Arabness' and métissage (cultural hybridity) in terms of a post-colonial struggle or resistance to marginalisation and racism, particularly during his early career in the 1980s' punk-influenced Arab rock band Carte de Séjour ('Residence Card'). In fact, no research has yet been undertaken examining his music, performance, visual presentation and impact of his migrant experience throughout his career. My project would therefore be the first comprehensive analysis of Taha's oeuvre and seeks to situate its cultural and political significance within the ever-developing field of cultural geography.


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