Algerian Music

Algeria is a country of over 30 million people bordered by Morocco on the west and Tunisia and Libya on the east. Most Algerians speak Arabic, although about 20% of Algerians speak Berber languages such as the Kabyle. The music of Algeria is heavily influenced by the classical music of Andalusian Arabs and Jews who migrated to Algeria, as well as the French who occupied Algeria as a colonial power for about 130 years.

The most famous musical tradition to come out of Algeria is Rai. In Arabic, Rai means "opinion" or "way of seeing things," and Rai artists referred to their genre as such because it often contained the opinions of the younger generation of Algerians growing up in the malaise of the 1980s. The musicians of this movement are all known as "Cheb" (Sheb), which means a young man or kid in Arabic, similar to American rappers who call themselves "Young" like Young MC, Young Jeezy, Young Turk and the Young Dynamos. There were also some female artists in the Rai movement known as "Chebba" the female of Cheb. The lyrics of these songs typically discuss social decay as disenchantment with the political status quo in Algeria, as well as normally rebellious activities like drinking alcohol and love affairs. For this reason, Rai music was considered controversial and many Rai artists moved to France when a conservative party that came into power in the mid-90s in Algeria began to target these musicians and even had one, Cheb Hasni, assassinated. Rai became very popular in France due to the large immigrant population from Algeria, and now Rai is known around the world.

The most famous Rai musician is Cheb Khaled, dubbed the King of Rai. He was at the front of the Rai movement in Algeria during the 1980s and moved to france during the 1990s like many Rai artists. He is known for his gruff voice and passionate vocals. Another artist, Cheb Mami, has similarly moved to France and enjoyed success singing in French and Arabic. Cheb Mami is known for his very high, malleable voice. A French born Rai artists named Faudel, who is dubbed the Prince of Rai, also enjoys commercial success and is known for his good looks.

Algeria is also home to folk musician Souad Massi who has enjoyed international success similar to that of Cheb Khaled. Influenced by Rai, Fado, and American country and rock music, Souad plays guitar and writes her own lyrics. She was previously in a rock band called Akator. In 1999 she left Algeria amidst death threats similar to those faced by Rai musicians. This being said, she is quite modest in comparison to female pop stars out of Egypt and Lebanon.

There are also many Algerian hip-hop arists who, like Rai artists, tend to operate out of France. These include Intik, MBS and MIA.

1 Response to "Algerian Music"

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