Rachid Taha | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Since fleeing the fundamentalism of their native country 20 years ago and making Paris their capital in exile, Khaled, Cheb Mami, and other leading practitioners of rai, the youth pop of Algeria, have created a slick international version of the style to back their smooth, melismatic singing. Rachid Taha, an Algerian-born rocker who's lived in France since he was ten, has taken another route, resisting the tug of assimilation. Back in the 80s he led a punk band, Carte de Sejour ("Green Card"), whose music reflected the anger of disenfranchised immigrants; over the years he's increasingly reclaimed his Arabic roots while maintaining the confrontational stance of the outsider. Though he's considered a rai singer, Taha draws equally from the more guttural sound and trenchant lyrical tradition of the old-fashioned Algerian street music called chaabi on his latest album, Tekitoi (Wrasse). Produced by longtime collaborator Steve Hillage, it's another impressive mixture of traditional riffs and instrumentation, ferocious rock firepower, and relentless, urgent singing. He exhibits some conceptual cojones with an Arabic-language reappropriation of the Clash's "Rock the Casbah," but it's his originals that hit hardest and express his range most eloquently. On "Safi," about the erosion of freedom of thought in the Middle East and the West alike, Taha yells, "They have neutered the people, all the people / Everything is locked up!" "H'asbu-Hum" is a furious demand for accountability: "Liars, thieves, humiliators, killers, oppressors, traitors, the envious.../ Get rid of them! / Ask them for an explanation!" No performer I've seen this decade has exuded more rock-star swagger than Taha, who in 2002 stalked the Empty Bottle stage as if it were the United Center. Three years later, the world is an uglier place; I don't suspect he'll dial back the attitude in this bigger venue. DJs Warp & Radiohiro open. Fri 7/1, 9:30 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $20. All ages.

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