Raï music reflects the diversity of the Maghreb, blending elements of Berber, Spanish, French, and classical Arabic musical styles. The style initially emerged from Algeria’s port city of Oran in the 1930s and has since become wide spread. The genre has expanded from being a male dominated genre to the inclusion of many prominent female singers. The complexity of the music is also reflected in the complexity of its reception in the Maghreb. Often criticized for its controversial and suggestive lyrics, Raï singers and followers came into conflict with Salafists, mainly in Algeria. In the 1980s this conflict in Algeria spawned what became known as the “Raï Generation.”
It is amazing to see the diversity within the genre, from the more traditional Cheb Hasni to the genre pushing Digital Bled. Raï has quickly become one of my favorite genres. The constant rhythm punctuates throughout while not overshadowing the eloquent vocals of the Cheb (singer). My favorite out of the artists selected here is the late Cheikha Rimitti. Initially born in Tessala, a small Algerian town, she escaped her life as an orphan and field worker at the age of 15, fleeing to the town of Relizane. There she discovered music and began writing songs documenting the sorrows and loves of everyday life. Her songs would eventually strike a chord with the Algerian people, launching her towards success at home and abroad. Enjoy the tracks selected here, especially the renowned Rachid Taha’s rendition of the The Clash’s “Rock the Cashbah.”
To listen to the songs click on the links below and they will open up in new tabs. Additionally there is a link below the songs titled, “View Larger Map.” By clicking on this you will be taken to an interactive map of the Maghreb. There will be points which can be clicked upon. If clicked on an interactive menu will pop up with the an artist name, click on the name to be taken to a page with more information on the artist. The idea of the map is to give a spatial representation of these artists across the Maghreb.