France-based Algerian singer Rachid Taha has died. His record label, Naïve, announced his death at age 59 in a statement on its Facebook page.
Naïve said Wednesday (Sept. 12) that the singer, who thrillingly blended Arabic music with rock and techno, died overnight after suffering a heart attack at his home in the Paris suburbs.
Taha recently finished an album due for release in 2019. He was scheduled to film the first music video for one of the new songs, “Je suis Africain” (“I am African”), this weekend.
With the group Carte de Séjour (“Residence Permit”), Taha -- who was born in Algeria in 1958 -- caused a stir in France in 1986 with a husky-voiced rocky cover of legendary singer and songwriter Charles Trenet’s sentimental, patriotic, “Douce France” (“Sweet France“). Though he moved to France with his family at 10, Taha was a lifelong proponent and promoter of the indigenous Algerian musical style known as "rai," which emerged as a protest medium in the 1960s. Taha met his punk rock heroes The Clash in Paris in 1981 -- where he slipped them his demo tape -- and in 2007 he told the Guardian that he believes that chance run-in inspired one of the band's biggest commercial hits, "Rock the Casbah," which Taha covered in 2004 as "Rock el Kasbah."
In addition to his work with Carte de Séjour -- which mixed rock with the Algerian Maghrebi style -- Taha also worked as a DJ in his Lyon-based club Les Refoulés, where he was known for blending Arabic pop with big beats from German techno pioneers Kraftwerk and rockers Led Zeppelin.
Check out Taha's cover of the 1973 Dahmane El Harrachi hit "Ya Rayah" below.