07. Rock, Race and the Republic. Musical Identities in Post-Colonial France



1. Carte de Séjour, “Rhorhomanie”

From: CBS/Mosquito (CBS A4320), 1984, 45rpm.


Rachid Taha: vocals; Jérôme Savy: guitar; Mohamad Amini: guitar; Mokhtar Amini: bass.


Lyrics (with a Latin-script transcription of the Arabic)



This song exemplifies the plurilingual compositions of Carte de Séjour, with Arabic dominating the stanzas while some repeated French phrases can be heard in the chorus, such as “C’est la rhorhomanie”, interspersed with the names of famous Afro-American artists who have influenced the band (James Brown, Otis Redding). “Rhorhomanie” is a neologism derived from the Arabic slang “rhorho”, mainly used in the Lyon area of South East France to denote immigrants from France’s former North African colonies.


2. Zebda, “Je crois que ça va pas être possible”

From: Essence ordinaire, Barclay (557869-2), 1998, CD.


Magyd Cherfi, Hakim Amokrane, Mustapha Amokrane, Dieudonné: vocals ; Joël Saurin: bass; Gilles Cabero: guitar; Rémi Sanchez: keyboards, sampler, accordion; Vincent Sauvage: drums, sampler; Joseph Doherty: violon, sax, flute, oud.





The 1998 recording features the French stand-up comedian Dieudonné, who impersonates a racist and hypocritical ‘white French’ person. Due to a series of anti-semitic declarations made by Dieudonné from 2003 onwards, Zebda have chosen to distance themselves from the original release, re-recording a video that erases the visual presence of Dieudonné (his utterances are mouthed by actors and band members).


3. Magyd Cherfi, “En enfer”

From: La cité des étoiles, LKP/Barclay (981708-9), 2004, CD.


Magyd Cherfi: vocals; Malik Kerrouche: guitar; Mokrane Adlani: mandoline and violon; Ferhat Madène: bendir, percussions; Rachid Bellil: banjo; Joël Saurin: bass.




This song features on Cherfi’s first solo album, recorded after a string of charts successes with the band Zebda in the late 1990s. It is a good illustration of Cherfi’s thoughtful and melancholy persona in his solo output, explored further in a book of autobiographical short stories published that same year and entitled Livret de famille (Paris: Actes Sud, 2004).


4. Carte de Séjour, “Douce France”

From: 2 ½. Barclay (831259), 1986, 33rpm.


Rachid Taha: lead vocals and backing vocals; Jérôme Savy and Mohamad Amini: lead guitars; Mokhtar Amini: bass guitar; M’Sahel Brahim: percussions, darbouka, congas; Ibn’Khalidi Nabil: oud, banjo; Pascal Noguera: drums; Julien Weiss: qanoun; Mark Frank: synths; Souad and Najette Amidou: backings vocals.





The song was originally written and composed by Charles Trenet in 1942 and released as a 78rpm in 1947 (Columbia BF195). Carte de Séjour re-arranged the music with North African percussions and Rachid Taha exaggerated the Arabic-sounding pronounciation of the French language when singing it, with a view to satirize the nostalgia of its lyrics. Despite being a hit in France in 1986, it was misunderstood by the media and unrepresentative of Carte de Séjour’s wider output, and led to the band’s collapse.


5. Zebda, “Le bruit et l’odeur”

From: Le bruit et l’odeur, Barclay (529222-2), 1995, CD.


Magyd Cherfi, Mustapha Amokrane, Hakim Amokrane: vocals; Joël Saurin: bass; Pascal Cabero: guitar; Rémi Sanchez: keyboards, sampler, accordion; Vincent Sauvage: drums, sampler; Joseph Doherty: violin.





The first song by Zebda to benefit from general release and to become a French nationwide success. It is famous for exposing racist comments made by Jacques Chirac in 1991, which are sampled in the lyrics and coincided, in the 1995, with the Presidential elections which Chirac won.


6. Rachid Taha, “Ecoute-moi camarade”

From: Diwan 2. Barclay (9843375), 2006, CD.


Rachid Taha: vocals; Idris Badarou: bass; Guillaume Roussel: drums; Hakim Hamadouche: mandolute and backing vocals; Hossam Ramzy and Rachid Belgacem: percussions; Steve Hillage: guitars; Miquette Giraudy: backing vocals; Stéphane Baudet: trumpet; The Cairo String Ensemble: strings.





Following his successful and well-received album of 1998, Diwan, which included the cover of an original Algerian song from 1973 (“Ya rayah”), Rachid Taha released Diwan 2 which opened with another cover, “Ecoute-moi camarade”. This was originally composed and sung by the Algerian singer-songwriter Mohamed Mazouni in the late 1960s.