Beihdja Rahal grew up in Algiers (Algeria) in a family who played Arab-Andalusian music every day. She studied song with the grand master Mohamed Khaznadji and also learned to play a type of lute called kuitra. Most of Beihdja Rahal’s recordings are dedicated to the Arab-andalusian form known as nuba.
In 1993 she started her own orchestra El Beihdja in Paris, and continues to give many concerts all over the world. Her success has earned her the title in Algeria of ‘the golden-voiced diva.’
Ali Slimani was born and raised in El Anasser, a quiet and neatly respectable suburb of the Algerian capital Algiers which is home to the huge football stadium where the young Slimani used to power the chants on the terraces with his darbuka. Although his parents wanted him to become a doctor or lawyer, Ali Slimani developed a passion for music and the sounds of Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Alpha Blondy, Boney M and the Bee Gees.
He also inherited a deep love for the heroes of the popular traditional music of Algiers, which is called chaabi (also known as shaabi), men like Dahmane El Harrachi and Mohammed El Hadj El Anka. Then of course there was rai. Like every other Algerian teenager Ali fell under the spell of the plain speaking, tough living heroes of rai music from Oran: Cheb Khaled, Cheb Hamid, Cheikha Remitti and Cheb Abdelhak etc. ”The words were so important,” Slimani explains. “With rai you can sing about what you want, problems, women, love, no job. For my family the words were very bad and out of respect I couldn’t listen to rai music at home at that time. We used to go off with my friends to the beach to listen to it instead.”
Whilst busking near Sacre Coeur in Paris during a summer holiday in the early 1980s, Ali Slimani got chatting to an English girl who inspired him to go to London and after a two year stretch of military service in the Algerian infantry, he finally made it to the English capital. It was a very strange choice of destination for a young Algerian at that time.
Life was hard at first, with menial jobs and language problems, but eventually Slimani started to make himself an envious reputation as a rai DJ, with regular slots at the HQ in Camden and the Orange Club in west Kensington as well as plenty of work in the North African wedding party circuit.
As his notoriety grew he was asked to audition for Jah Wobble’s Invaders Of The Heart, who were looking for a percussionist and singer to replace Natasha Atlas. Percussion wasn’t a problem but Slimani had never thought of himself as a singer. But something clicked and Jah Wobble was seduced by his skills and easygoing manner.
For four headlong years, Ali Slimani became part of the epoch making Invaders of the Heart, touring the globe, taking globally flavored dub inspiration to the corners of the earth and eventually recording of Mraya, a landmark of modern rai-dub in which the whole Invaders of the heart crew: Jah Wobble, Sinead O’Connor, Justin Adams et al played their part. In the wake of the album’s success, Ali Slimani was asked to contribute vocals to Sinead O’Connor’s hit ‘Fire On Babylon’ and even appeared on Top of The Pops with the baldhead Irish diva, the first Arabic singer ever to penetrate this bastion of British Pop.
The real test of Ali Slimani’s mettle as a musician came when he went solo after The Invaders of the Heart. There’s no denying that times were tough and that Slimani needed all the survival instinct in his bones to keep carrying on. But all those years of hard work, hard touring and hard searching paid off with the release of Espoir. ”I think it’s better that I waited,” says Slimani. “I found the right people to work with and that’s important. When I met the producer Veronica Ferraro I said, ‘Ok, we’re going to do this album and we’ll do songs in nearly all the different styles from Algeria so it’ll be for everybody! That way it’ll be nicer.” Sure enough, Espoir features a myriad of different styles from Algeria, all of which have been given an modern and unashamedly electronic makeover.
Most of the material on the album was composed by Ali Slimani himself in partnership with other long-time musical collaborators like fellow Algerian Yazid Fentazi from the group Fantazia, a multi-instrumentalist, music obsessive and all round creative genius or the guitarist and producer Justin Adams, who is currently a cornerstone of Robert Plant’s new band. There are songs rooted in the urban chaabi tradition of Algiers like ‘Lirah’ and ‘Oulah Manansak’. There’s a song called ‘Elho’ from the Berber region of Kabylia, arranged by Slimani and Fentazi who is a Kabyl himself. ‘Sur La Route de Tamanrasset’ is inspired by Saharawi music from the deepest Sahara but was recorded in deepest Hackney, London. ‘Moi et Toi’ is a rai song about cultural conflicts in man-woman relationships. ‘El Arabia’ is an Arabic dub song co-written with Slimani’s long time friend Rootsman from Bradford.
Peace, hope and cooperation…these aren’t joke words, especially if you come from Algeria. Ali Slimani has brought together some of the greatest talents in North African music -Natacha Atlas, rapper Clotaire K, Yazid Fentazi, and singer Selma, whose husband was a victim of Algeria’s civil violence- to help him make an album that celebrates hope for a brighter future and for basic human understanding, rare commodities in these darkening times. ”When I look at Algeria in the last ten years, if you wanna know the truth, I feel bad,” he says. ”I cry, cry for my country. But hopefully it will get better, because it’s God’s will. Algeria will come back.”
[Edited from an original text by Andy Morgan. Courtesy of Nadia Chaouchi, Manager for Ali Slimani Abdelati.
Akim El Sikameya was born in Oran, Algeria. He is the youngest son in a family of six, born to a Justice Civil Servant father.
At the age of eight, Akim joined Nassim el Andalous, the well-known Arab-Andalusian music school whose teachings he followed for the next fourteen years. Meanwhile, he studied at Montesquieu Secondary school and joined the school band (the headmistress being a great music admirer). Akim’s childhood and teen years are rooted in Arab-Andalusian music.
At the time, Oran was waking up to a different style of music, Rai, which is becoming the most famous Arabic music in the West. The Algerian youth was set on free by Khaled, Cheba, Fadela and Cheb Mami, and their irresistible talent.
But the leaders of the developing Algerian nation have uniquely bet on the Arab-Muslim identity to build up the country’s cultural future, forgetting its historical human and religious melting pot and promoting Arab-Andalusian music to a status of national classical music so much that the overfed younger generations chose to turn their backs on it.
It was no easy trick for Akim to convince his friends of the beauty of this sophisticated age-old art. In 1990, he nevertheless succeeded in founding a band with whom he adapted and modernized Arab-Andalusian nubas, adding Flamenco guitar and piano to compose songs. In the meantime, he studied at the university to become an electronics engineer.
Four years later, in 1994, Akim left Oran for Marseilles (France) where he followed a marketing master course, while still continuing his progress in music.
Then, he chose, to his family’s surprise, to become a professional singer under the name of Akim El Sikameya, sika and meya being two of the most often played Arab-Andalusian nubas. He entered the music profession, giving concerts and was noticed for his soft and fine head voice which expresses so well deepness and alegria (happiness).
In 1999 he recorded his first album Atifa – Oumi (Night and Day). Following the release of the album he went on a world tour and was the opening act for such stars as Khaled, Cheb Mami, Willy De Ville, Les Negresses Vertes, Natacha Atlas, Cesaria Evora, and Noa, to name just a few. He gained more and more confidence on stage.
He was applauded at the Womad Festival in Las Palmas, Madrid, Reading and Singapore and was invited to a world tour.
Ahmed el Salam was born in Oued Souf, in the Algerian Sahara, where he learned to play the flute. Later he moved to Algiers, the capital of Algeria, where he discovered the guitar. He now lives in France and his music embraces the sounds of his life, combining a sublime combination of strings (guitar, ud, violin) his voice speaks from the heart.
In Ahmed’s music, you can hear a plurality of cultural influences – echoes of chaabi with other music styles of North Africa and the Middle East, alongside Arab-Andalusian music, flamenco, the blues, Santana and Jimi Hendrix.
Ahmed el Salam has performed extensively in France, Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Turkey and elsewhere.
Aidan O’Rourke is a fiddle player and composer from Oban on the West Coast of Scotland. He has toured extensively in Europe and North America from the age of 15 and has made his name as one of Scotland’s most expressive and dynamic musicians.
At 19, Aidan formed Tabache with Claire Mann and went on to record the internationally acclaimed album Waves of Rush. Aidan now performs with the hugely successful Blazin’ Fiddles (Live Act of the Year 2004) and is a much sought after session musician, having performed on over dozens of albums ranging from Runrig to Michael McGoldrick and Karen Matheson.
Commissions have included a piece titled Mantra Alba which welcomed the Dalai Lama to Scotland.
Sirius is his first solo album which evolved from a commission by Celtic Connections in 2003.
Are You Willing?, with Tabache (1996)
Waves of Rush, with Tabache (1999)
Live in Scotland, with The Unusual Suspects (2005) Sirius (2006)
Lightweights and Gentlemen, with Lau (2007) Live, with Lau (2008) Arc Light, with Lau (2009) An Tobar (Navigator Records, 2011)
Big Like This, with The Unusual Suspects (2011) Race the Loser, with Lau (2012)
Hotline (2013) The Bell That Never Rang, with Lau (2015) Sleeper, with Kan (2015)
Aicha Mint Chighaly was born in 1963 in Kaedi, Mauritania. Her father, Yuba Al-Mokhtar ould Chighaly, was one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.
In 1982, the family Chighaly moved from the Senegal border area to the Mauritanian capital, Nuakchott.
Aicha became a singer and ardin (Mauritanian harp-lute) player. In 1996, she started her international career. She released her first CD for the Inedit collection of the Maison Des Cultures du Monde in Paris.
Born in Egypt to an Eritrean father, Ahmed took his first steps in music at a Nubian music institute in downtown Cairo. He started with singing, playing the guitar, and eventually moving on to his current instrument, the bass guitar, which he plays for leading Egyptian bands such as Senet, El Dor El Awal, Beshir, and Wust El Balad.
Ahmed has also organized the Afri-Cairo Music Festival and is a partner and manager at the Wust El Balad recording studio.
Agricantus is a band from Sicily. Its early releases Gnanzù and Viaggiari were fine examples of its ability to mix ethnic music, mainly from the Mediterranean, with ambient and trance rhythms, and were followed by Tuareg, with which they achieved success in Italy and Europe. This album was recorded in the desert of Mali with nomad instruments and musicians and won the prestigious Tenco award in 1996.
In 1997 the band went on to win the important Italian “PIM” award, and had a key role in the soundtrack to the film hamam- The Turkish Bath, which won the Globo d’Oro 1997 (Italian Golden Globe).
The mini-CD Hale Bopp Souvenir, featuring Fadimata Wallet Oumar – spokesperson for the true Tuareg culture – was Agricantus’ next release and this was then followed in 1998 by Kaleidos, an album that immediately attracted attention worldwide. In Kaleidos, Agricantus undertook an extraordinary journey to the heart and origins of classical music, letting themselves be inspired by great composers such as Grieg, Paganini, Brahms and Luciano Berio. They included samples of their music amidst original Agricantus compositions, and, in the case of Berio, took score of his work and let their music be enriched by it. Classical music and technology were united with an incredible flair.
In 1998 they co-wrote the soundtrack to the film I Giardini dell’Eden (Gardens of Eden). A year later, in 1999, the album Best of Agricantus was released in the United States with the label “World Class”, that distributed it not only in the United States but also in Canada, South America, Australia and Japan. In just a few weeks it rose to the top of American and Australian radio charts. September 1999 saw the release date of Faiddi, a compilation of their most beautiful songs re-arranged and played live.
Habibi (2006) explores Sicilian and Sardinian music combined with electronic beats and acoustic instruments from various parts of the globe.
Agnes Buen Garnås, born in 1946, is one of Norway’s leading traditional singers. She is a member of the famous Buen family (of Jondalen in Telemark), and has been a pioneer in the efforts to revitalize Norwegian vocal traditions. Her achievements in this area have had a great influence on young traditional vocalists throughout the country.
Garnås has inspired them to seek out their own local traditions, and has brought many young singers onto the stage. Her collaboration with Jan Garbarek on Rosensfole has become a classic in its genre. Her warm, lovely voice finds its mate in Garbarek’s soundscape.
Det spelar og syng i familien Buen (1975) Når klokkune gjeve dur (1976)
Folk Music of Norway (1977)
På gamle tufter, with Sondre Bratland (Kåre Nordstoga, Guttorm *Guttormsen, Knut Buen, Halvor Håkanes, Warren Carlstrøm and Finn *Kvalem (1985)
Jul med Rupesekken (1985)
Stem våre understrenger, with Knut Buens (1988)
Draumkvedet, with Inger Lise Ulsrud and Knut Buen (1989)
Tusseliten og Trippeliti, with Finn Kvalem, Guttorm Guttormsen, Knut Buen and Olav Snortheim (1989) Rosensfole, with Jan Garbarek (ECM, 1989) Twelve Moons, with Jan Garbarek (ECM, 1992)
Høgdepunkt frå Landskappleiken (1994)
Med blanke ark (19940
Attersyn, with Knut Buen (1995)
Stev og slått, with Knut Buen (1996)
Det syng, with Anne Marit Jacobsen, Halvor Håkanes, Eli Storbekken and *Sinikka Langeland (1997)
Langt inn i hugheimen, with Knut Buen (1997)
Ljos og skugge, with Knut Buen (1998)
Soltreet (2002) Han rider den mørke natt (2002)
The 14-year-old winner of the 1988 All-Japan Tsugaru-Shamisen Competition, held at the Kanagicho in the Aomori Prefecture, began his studies of the instrument at the age of six.
For several more years, the young artist continued to develop his talents and for two consecutive years in 1995 and 1996 was awarded the prestigious top prize in the Tsuguru-Shamisen National Competition held in Hirosaki, Japan.
Receiving high acclaim in Hogaku (traditional Japanese music) inspired Agatsuma to continue exploring the unique qualities of the Tsugaru-Shamisen, and in turn, his own musical specialty.
In 2001, on his critically acclaimed debut (self-titled Agatsuma), he received the award for ‘Album of the Year’ at the Japan Gold Disc Awards.
On his second release, Beams, Agatsuma blended his many musical influences of jazz, rock fusion and Latin based grooves with traditional Japanese folk music. As he noted, “I appreciate the foundation made by my ancestors. It has given me the opportunities to appreciate and perform many different types of music.”
About Beyond, his third release, Hiromitsu Agatsuma said: “I tried so many different things on this album, such as song motives, scales, play styles and so on. I even discovered new things during the recording, so I could have comfortable feelings of tension in the studio.
Several experiences gave me great influences on composing music for this album. The U.S. east coast tour on February 2003, the U.S. west coast live performances in August 2003, and the collaborations with Marcus Miller and Larry Coryell. I had lots of opportunities to perform in front of people saying’ what is Shamisen?’ and ‘how is it played?’, who never heard Shamisen before. Those were the great experiences for me.
I was able to feel the wide potentials of the world of Shamisen by those experiences, and I believe that I could express more of the fusion with the contemporary music scene, in other words Agatsuma-ish Shamisen World. Further more, this album contains the collaborations with guest artists. Playing together with each artist made this album very provocative and innovative.
I would like to keep creating Agatsuma World with learning by trial and error.”