Tell us something about your background?
I was born in the south west of France, the child of Algerian Berber parents. A point arrived where I realised I didn’t want to stay there any longer, so I moved to Barcelona when I was 18.
I wanted to break a bit with my family, and the society and environment we were living in. I guess the area hasn’t changed much, so that’s one of the reasons why I haven’t moved back there.
I got into music in Barcelona and decided to develop a career in the industry. I came to London to develop my music.
The first thing that shocked me was when I arrived at Heathrow airport was that there was a Sikh guy and a dreadlocked guy who worked for customs.
That was a very interesting contact because, from my experience in France and Spain, you don’t have people from ethnic minorities working in those kind of jobs.
I thought that was very positive.
Was Britain the place you got a record deal?
Yes. I started to play in piano bars and learn jazz compositions and arrangements. I was polishing my musical knowledge.
When I realised I had enough knowledge I thought it was time to get into my own thing. I started to do my own writing. From there I did some work with other artists, including Natacha Atlas. The guy who produced her album heard my demos and thought they were interesting.
He offered me a deal. My first album Liberté came out in 2002 and did quite well. Now we have Société. There is a link between the two – an awareness.
The song Société is about consumerism. Where did the lyrics come from?
I feel that we are living in such a consumerist environment – it seems to be the only thing that matters. The whole establishment is creating this environment to push the people to consume more.
That was my point in Société. We are consuming everything. It is reaching such a speed that many other values are disappearing. This is leading to a very materialist society where everything has to be related to a financial value.
More consumerism means more degradation of the environment.
Most of the people are falling into this. Millions of people demonstrated against the invasion of Iraq a few years ago, but the war still happened. That was because people got tired and had to go back to their real life, which is based in a very consumerist environment.
Maybe we should have smashed the whole city when we realised that a pacifist demonstration of two million was not enough to stop the government from going into an illegal war.
Those leaders of the world are extremely violent. Maybe the same level of violence should be used to counter what they are doing.
There is an alternative. Last year’s riots in France were very much linked to the phenomenon of globalisation. It was a local issue that could have happened anywhere else in the world.
There will be a lot more of these kind of events as there are more people with lots of anger. This is the way they will express it.
We are moving towards a society where class is more important. There is such violence because you have such differences between classes.
It is a fact that most of the people involved in the riots were from an ethnic minority group. They haven’t been brought into the life of the city as other groups have.
Instead they have been geographically excluded in the suburbs.
The political leaders in the 1960s, who built the suburbs, didn’t think of the long term consequences. People were just left for years. No politicians came forward to solve the problems.
The immigrants from North African countries or Asian countries were brought to France because there was a high demand for labour after the Second World War.
They were part of the suburbs. They had kids who had kids. In some suburbs you had three or four generations of people living in these tower blocks.
No money has been spent on these areas to improve people’s lives and levels of unemployment are very high.
No wonder we had those riots. I am not supporting violent behaviour, but I try to understand it.
My parents, who have been in France for over 40 years, still don’t have the right to vote in the local elections. They are still Algerian, but they pay French taxes.
The media say that minority groups don’t want to integrate. But they place us outside the city, they say our parents can’t vote. Do they really want us to integrate?
The political scene is insane. The politicians all come from the same scene. From left to right it's the same.
There are practically no MPs from ethnic minority backgrounds in France. This shows how the system is heavily protected, and they manipulate the whole of society.
France still has a colonial attitude towards people from ethnic minority backgrounds. When I am in France I may get stopped by the police because of the colour of my skin. They question you in an arrogant way.
It is all linked to the past, with Algeria being a French colony.
Do you think it’s important to get political ideas across in your music?
It’s very important that an artist relates to their environment and background. There are plenty of artists whose work is not related to what’s going on and it is beautiful, but for me it’s important that you bring awareness to your audience.
Then people can do whatever they want to do with it. We need more militancy within the artistic world.
Hopefully more and more artists and actors will take clearer positions and tell people that what the US war machine is doing is totally wrong.
What projects have you got planned for the future?
I have got involved with a project supporting the Western Saharan people, whose land is being occupied by the Moroccan authorities.
I spent two weeks in the camp last November, working with the people. There is a huge festival in London in October called Sandblast to mark the 30th anniversary of the Moroccan invasion of the Western Sahara.
The festival will bring awareness to the people here about the huge injustice done to the Western Saharan people.
Morocco has built a huge wall to separate the refugees in the Algerian Sahara from those who stayed to struggle against the occupation.
They had a propaganda campaign to get Moroccan people to move to the Western Sahara. It is just like what happened to the Palestinians, although the Palestinian cause is better known.