90 minutes of 80’s Trans-Culturation.
Raï music, a popular form of political culture since the 1920’s in Algeria, became a globally recognised musical form during 1980’s. The word 'Raï' itself means ‘opinion’ and this underlines the genres aspirations to freedom of speech and expression, while artists are differentiated by the prefix ‘chab’ (young man) and chabates or ‘cheba' (young woman).
This is an hour and a half of selections from some of the many, many cassettes released by Algerian Raï artists during that decade. And the genre was released almost exclusively on cassettes. The music itself is raw and thrilling, hypnotic and insistent, angry, rebellious, frantic, its moods romantic, yearning and melancholic. It is multi-layered and dreamy, dizzyingly fusing afro-beat, western pop tropes and Arabic instrumental riffs.
Pop Raï, the sound that comprises most of the selections here, was controversial throughout the middle east in many of the non-democratic regimes. It was a highly secular and regionally diverse sound. Raï singers were challenging long held traditions and teachings - resisting increasing strict islamic conventions. Consequently the sounds became enormously popular with the young across the Arab world, directly addressing harsh realities of circumstance around unemployment, immigration and religious taboo's like drunkenness and sexual relations. Singers faced difficult challenges of censorship and govermental repression, and songs about tormented love or abandonment in later years became a powerful metaphor of longing for those exiled abroad.
Raï sprung from what the authorities viewed as a controversial melding of musical forms - middle eastern vocal traditions and north African rhythms blended with western influences as disparate as Spanish flamenco and Reggae, integrating electric guitars, synthesizers and drum machines. With lyrical concerns which provoked debate around politics, identity, and sexuality, Raï music and its artists were considered transgressive and dangerous by the islamic reformists in control of Algeria’s government and culture.
Conditions worsened considerably during the Algerian Civil War in ’91 due to the jihadist Armed Islamic Group of Algeria who conducted a violent campaign in their attempts to overthrow the government. Singers and performers often faced beatings and death threats, many were forced into exile (often relocating to Franco-Arabic neighbourhoods of Paris) while tragically others, including Cheb Hasni and Rachid Baba-Ahmed were murdered for their flaunting of rebellious politics and western sensibilities.
As always, my motivations are to share and celebrate music and musicians. This is not my culture, and i do not represent its values and traditions in any way, nor do i seek to profit from it. But i am eager to disperse and transmit the wonder of these artists and their music, to pay tribute and to honour their struggles and triumphs.
Celebrate don't appropriate. Honour music & the musicians who bring their music to us. With their talents, their passions, their struggles and sometimes even with their lives.
≈Ω HuussH Ω≈20:05 - 21:40