Jazz legend tells us that while the U. S. 369th Infantry Regiment (AKA Harlem Hellfighters) was temporarily integrated into the French 16th Division during the First World War, musicians from Harlem and from North African French colonial possessions bonded, sharing not only performance ideas, but homemade instruments and instrumental techniques, and that what we call “jazz” today came from that specific merging of cultures.
Music aficionados surmise that a listening background in American jazz and blues, marked by slurred and individualistic improvisational phrasing, is a good start for falling in love with World Music, in which the primary vocabulary, for the listener, must be that of music rather than that of any one spoken tongue. Combine the legend and the surmise, and what results is the basis for Koum Tara.
Led by composer/pianist Karim Maurice, this group weaves Châabi, classic string quartet and jazz to create a cerebral music at once lighthearted and capable of exploring sophisticated depth. New release “Chaâbi, Jazz and Strings” does what is supposed to be done with a jazz project; it utilizes a group of respectful, introspective players to examine songs, take them apart and put them back together in just a few, not-long-enough minutes. In common with the most treasured recordings in one’s record collection, Koum Tara’s sound is at the same time superlatively modern and convincingly primitive.
Four musicians, nine songs. To give some idea of thematic range with words, some sample lyric lines, translated into English, include:
“Don’t ever imagine seeing my shadow again”
“My wait is limitless / Like an orphan seeking happiness”
“In this garden, next to a river / The sun is about to fade into dusk”
“An internal ember burns me from inside”
“Accustomed to travel, he always returns to his nest / His plumage soft as silk”
“Be more tender and accept being mine / Beautiful creature, O dove of the city”
“No one can blame me for holding on to my first love”
Is it a record or a rubaiyat? Please access it and decide for yourself. Piano like unexpected, refreshing summer rain. Driving percussion. Intense strings. Vocals guiding one through the human heart, from delight to despond. A sound recipe spanning millennia.
Recognized worldwide as a leader of the movement to popularize jeel, Hakim is an innovator who has revolutionized the genre of sha’bi. His music adds modern rhythms to a foundation of traditional sha’bi melodies, resulting in entirely new sounds. It is the music of the masses, evident by his ever-growing fan base throughout Europe, Australia, and the Middle East.
Lauded as a musical “trail blazer,” Hakim has sold an estimated six and a half million units throughout his career. Just as sha’bi is defined as the music of the people, Hakim is someone his audience can relate to, through songs that fuse traditional melodies with urban dance beats, and lyrics .that chronicle daily life through the rhythm of street slang.
A major figure in the international music scene, Hakim has played to sell-out crows in Europe, the Middle East, Australia, North America, and Africa. He has received numerous accolades including the award for Best North African Singer 2000 at Africa’s prestigious Kora Awards, and he was chosen to represent Egypt at 1994’s Festival des Allumees in Nantes, France.
In 1999, his rising popularity prompted France’s Blue Silver label to release “The Best of the Big Egyptian Star,” an album of hits that was met with acclaim from crowds of new European fans.
Hakim was born in Maghagha, in the province of Minya, Egypt. A devotee of sha’bi from the very beginning, he began singing at the age of eight. At fourteen he formed a band and started performing at local parties and school functions with the accompaniment of a tabla, a daf, and an accordion. The band played covers of classic sha’bi hits by Ahmed Adaweya, Mohamed El Ezabi, and Abdel Ghani Al Sayed. Soon they expanded, bringing in keyboards and drums and performing all over the Minya province.
Under academic pressure from his father, who, as the mayor of Maghagha, wanted his son to secure a professional future rather than follow his artistic proclivities, Hakim moved to Cairo to attend the prestigious University of El Azhar. Meanwhile he was meeting with other musicians at the cafes on Mohammed Ali Street (a centuries-old gathering spot for artists of all sorts) and his interest in renewing the sha’bi genre was cemented.
It was there on the bustling streets of Cairo that he received his musical training for the music of the streets. One of Hakim’s teachers was the famed street accordionist Ibrahim El Fayoumi, who helped him convey in his music the unadulterated spirit of the street.
Having completed his B.A. in Communications in 1983, Hakim returned to Maghagha with the intent to pursue music. He formed his own orchestra consisting of a blend of oriental instruments (tabla, daf, dohola, accordion, kawala, quarter-tone trumpets) and western instruments (drum set, bass guitar, keyboards). They set about performing all over Minya, and Hakim soon became the province’s most popular singer. Yet he still longed for the artistic atmosphere of the metropolis of Arabic music. So, following his passion and defying his father, Hakim moved to Cairo to devote himself fully to his music.
In 1989 Hakim met the highly-acclaimed producer Hamid El Shaeri and a great partnership was formed. Soon after, Hakim signed a contract with the record company Sonar Ltd / Slam Records and began recording his first album, with El Shaeri as his producer.
Response to the electronic-sha’bi mix of Nazra, released in 1991, was phenomenal, as the album hit the charts immediately and the first pressing of the cassette was sold out within a month. Hundreds of phone calls came in requesting Hakim to perform. Determined to get the word out about the album, he went to DJs and gave them copies of his tape – the first time any Egyptian artist handled his own publicity in this way.
In 1994, after the release of his second album, Nar, Hakim was chosen to represent Egypt at the Festival des Allumees in Nantes, France. Hakim, shrewdly viewing this as an opportunity to bring jeel music to a wider audience, popularized sha’bi as no other musician had, and became known as the “king of jeel”.
1996 saw Hakim receive a nomination for the esteemed Kora Award in the category of Best North African Singer. In the same year he released the album Efred, the first of many collaborative efforts between himself, lyricist Amal El Taer, and composer Essam Tawfik.
Although Hakim stopped doing covers in favor of performing original songs, he has only written a small portion of his songs. In the collaborative process, he offers general concepts, which are then developed further by El Taer and Tawfik.
With 1998’s Hakim Remix, he turned eight of his previously-released hits over to Britain’s Transglobal Underground, who then put their own spin on things. It was a daring move, as Hakim had to maintain the right balance between tradition and innovation. ”I don’t mind pushing towards the evolution but I do not want to lose the identity in the process,” he noted. Also released in 1998 was the album Hayel, a selection of traditional sha’bi and return to his musical roots.
Hakim’s experimental search for the perfect fusion of tradition with innovation is presented in his album, Yaho, which was released by Mondo Melodia / Ark 21 Records on December 5, 2000. Its original version is already a huge success in the Middle East, having sold over 1 million copies.
The U.S. version features four remixes by the acclaimed British group Transglobal Underground and two brand new songs including Yemin We Shemal by French producer Sodi and El Bi Hebeni El. It is a testament to Hakim’s sha’bi roots as well as a musical journey on an international level. In traditional sha’bi style, classical Middle Eastern instruments such as the oud and nay mingle with Hakim’s rich tenor vocals during the mawwal. Also keeping with sha’bi custom, Hakim’s lyrics, which are mostly about everyday life, are never syrupy or heavy, rather they are coy, light-hearted, and witty.
His most significant live album was recorded in the heart of Brooklyn New York, The Lion Roars, Live in America (Mondo Melodia/Ark 21, 2001), produced by Dawn Elder. Singing to audiences who typically didn’t understand a word of Arabic, he captivated them with his voice, and the traditional roots of his sha’bi music.
This release was also followed by the most significant tour in Hakim’s International career. Originally scheduled to start his first major American tour in September of 2001, along with fellow Algerian Artist Khaled, Hakim was shocked as the entire world watched on TV the devastation of the 911 events in the United States. He stood at the airport watching the news with his Egyptian orchestra all set to board a plane to New York on the eve of 911.
The tour was of canceled, but remarkably rescheduled a few months later. Hakim along with his entire Egyptian Orchestra believed it was vital to the healing of communities of all ethnic backgrounds in the United States to proceed with his tour of North America.
In 2004 and 2005 Hakim released two more albums Talakik (Ark21) and Kolo Yorkoss. Talakik featured two hit singles and won several Latin music awards. The first, Ajielbi, a duet with Olga Tañón, that topped the Latin and Arab music charts, followed by a second hit “ Salam” featured in the movie Vanity Fair , starring Reece Witherspoon.
Lela (2006) featured collaborations with James Brown and Stevie Wonder. In 2007 Hakim released “Tigi Tigi.” This was followed by “Ya Mazago” in 2011 that included the song “Kolena Wahed” which called for a unity of the peoples of the Arab world.
In 2014, Hakim was invited to write the lead song for the movie Halawet Rooh, starring the Middle East’s most popular actress Haifa Webhe. The movie was a success and the music video of the song reached millions of viewers:
Nazra (Sonar Ltd / Slam Records, 1991)
Hayel (1998) Yaho (Mondo Melodia / Ark 21 Records, 2000)
The Lion Roars – Live in America (Mondo Melodia 850 043, 2001) Talakik (Mondo Melodia, 2002)
Taminy Alek (2004)
El Youm Dol (2004)
Kolo Yoross (2005) Lela (I.R.S. World, 2006) Tigy Tigy (2007)
Ya Mazago (2011)
Souad Massi is a Paris-based Algerian singer-songwriter. With a beautiful voice and a large palette of influences to draw from, Souad Massi is one of the most interesting new singers to come from Algeria. Influenced equally by shaabi music, French chanson, flamenco, 1960s American folk and a variety of African traditional music, this Algerian guitarist and singer makes music that is at once exotic and familiar.
Souad Massi was born August 23, 1972 in Bab en Oued, Algeria, a poor, multi-ethnic neighborhood in the hills above Algiers. Her family had come from Kabylia, the mountainous home of the Berber people, a culturally estranged population in modern Algeria. It is tempting to link Souad’s career to those of socially conscious Kabyl singer/songwriters like Matoub Lounes and Ait Mengeullet. But despite great affection for her Berber roots, Souad has always felt at peace with her blended identity, part Berber, part Arab, part Turkish and Persian-in short, Algerian. Her struggle for identity has centered on her vocation as a musician, not her ethnicity.
Souad’s father was a chartered accountant, who enjoyed chaabi music-urban street pop. Her mother preferred Arabic classical music, but also bent her ear to James Brown and Aretha Franklin. For Souad, films inspired an early passion for music. A self-described “tom boy,” she loved Westerns, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly at the top of the list. These films led to her to discover country and folk music, Kenny Rogers and Emmy Lou Harris, Loudon Wainwright III, and later Tracy Chapman. Her uncle played flamenco guitar, and Souad also developed a passion for that style, finding its rough, evocative vocal style an intriguing departure from the more genteel Arabic vocal music she grew up with.
When Souad succumbed to depression as a teenager, her musical brother Hassan nurtured her with music, enrolling her in guitar lessons and coaching her at home. She began writing poetry in the tradition of Arabic love poets, and soon put the two together, performing her songs informally for friends.
School took Souad out of Algiers for awhile, first to Taghit, at the edge of the Sahara, where she studied architecture, then to Tizi Ouzou, in Kabylia. Bored without the stimulation of the big city, she returned to Algiers to study at the Institute of Public Works. In the late 90s, she took a job as town planner, and played music at night. She began with a flamenco-oriented group called Trianas d’Alger, but soon left to indulge a newfound passion for hardcore rock music.
She joined a rock band called Atakor and recorded her debut cassette, Souad, with them in 1997. The cassette’s success led to radio and TV appearances. But with fame came danger. Rock groups faced fundamentalist protests and sometimes violence at festivals. At a time when musicians were being targeted for assassination, she was afraid to press her career forward. At the same time, the more she discovered her own voice as a musician, the more the broadcast media became wary of her, and began to censor her simply by neglecting her. Caught between a fearful military government and scornful fundamentalists, Souad felt trapped.
Subsequently, the fateful invitation arrived for Souad Massi to perform a concert in Paris. TV producer Aziz Smati, himself a victim of a fundamentalist shooting, had escaped to France as a paraplegic, and teamed up with radio broadcaster Mohammed Allalou to organize a festival of Algerian women at the Cabaret Sauvage. Once in France, energized in the aftermath of that life-changing debut, Souad recorded her debut CD, Raoui (Island/Wrasse), a set of stylistically adventurous and highly personal songs inspired by a tempestuous, ill-fated love affair. The songs were frankly confessional, and cast an unflinching eye on the darkness she had experienced in her life.
She mostly sang in Arabic, showcasing a voice with stark emotional power and arresting subtlety, but she also sang in French, as on “J’ai Pas du Temps,” a languid rock ballad in which she laments, “It was said to me that life was beautiful/But I find these times cruel/The black smoke took the place of the sky.” Raoui sold over 100,000 copies, and although she was still an unknown in the Middle East and North Africa, Souad Massi quickly became an Arab music pop star in Europe.
Her 2001 WOMEX appearance was a revelation, propelling Raoui (Storyteller) onto plenty of best of lists, and garnering her a nomination in the Radio 3 World Music Awards.
Souad’s unique road to success has left her free to make her own stylistic choices, rather than conform to the established genres for Algerian singers: rai, chaabi, Arab-Andalusian or classical music. On her album Deb (Island/Wrasse), Souad continues her impressive musical evolution embracing flamenco, gypsy rumba, and even Congolese music, while maintaining her identity as a highly personal songwriter. Now based in Paris, Souad Massi has had the time to let her musical sensibility mature, meet other artists and tour extensively.
Rachid Taha has been fusing the music of his native Algeria with the sounds of the West. Born in 1958 in Oran, Algeria, Rachid grew up in France in the poverty-stricken, working-class immigrant community that had sprung up in Lyons.
From an early age, music was his lifeline against the hopelessness of immigrant life. He sang, and also DJ’d in clubs, spinning an international blend of sounds that would presage his career. “I played a real patchwork,” he recalled, “Arabic, salsa, rap, funk, anything you could dance to.”
But the records didn’t say what was in his heart, the conflict of being an outsider, his Algerian roots pulling against the tug of European culture. So in the mid-’80s he formed a band, Carte de Sejour (Green Card). Their music burned with the fire of a young immigrant generation, exploding with the anger of punk on their best-known track, an ironic, politically-charged cover of the patriotic “Douce France.” After three years the band split up, and Rachid traveled to Los Angeles to work with producer Don Was (Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt) on his solo debut. Barbes, the result of their collaboration, appeared internationally in 1991, at the height of Gulf War fever. In spite of glowing reviews, the subtle prejudice against all things Arabic at the time left it to sink without trace.
Older, wiser, but even more adventurous, Rachid returned in 1996 with Ole Ole, where massive club beats powered Arabic song, from the raw desert blues of rai to the kick of the Egyptian street pop shaabi, a unique, pan-North African vision melded with the programmed power of the First World.
With Diwan, in 1998, Rachid moved to a more subtle tack. The songs on the record came from his youth, work that had inspired his own music, from the pens of such greats as Dahmane El Harrachi and Nass El Ghiwane. It was, he explained, “my version of John Lennon’s Rock’n’Roll album.” Unlike the late Beatle, Rachid’s versions brought the classics very much into the modern age. Beat and samples pulsed alongside string sections and traditional instruments for an album that was a quiet musical revolution. Aided by Steve Hillage’s sympathetic and knowledgeable production, it was a masterpiece that both paid homage to the past and paved the way for the future.
On Made in Medina, his debut album for Mondo Melodia, Taha combined powerful rock with melodies of North Africa. The voice of Afrobeat star Femi Kuti, whose duet with Rachid on “Ala Jalkourn,” brings together North, and West Africa in a seamless blend of unity where voices transcend geographic borders. The album was recorded in Paris, London, and New Orleans, and was produced by veteran musician Steve Hillage.
The 2004 album, Tekitoi, was recorded in Paris, London and Cairo. Some of the themes are war, racism and corruption.
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.
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.
Three nights of music (17 March – 19 March 2016) at Babel Med Music, located in the Docks des Suds of Marseille with outdoor spring-like temperatures. What more could you expect? Would we discover a lot of new bands and creations?
I think that for budgetary reasons and cost effectiveness, the organizers try to get a fair balance between emerging talents for the professional participants and established ones for the general public. My review will feature fourteen acts out of more than thirty artists spread over three nights.
On Thursday night, I noticed a lot of professionals wearing a badge, who were attending the gigs. Canadian vocalist Alejandra Ribera started the concert series at the Tent stage. She was eye catching, wearing a long sleeveless black dress. Alejandra began the song “La Boca” in English, with a deep voice in a foggy universe, then switched over into another register, singing in Spanish with sometimes a piercing voice. Her Scottish roots took us into a melancholic mood as deep as a winter depression. Fortunately, the South American rhythms that followed made us jump with joy.
Also at the Tent stage, the project La Nuit d’Antigone (France – Germany – Turkey) presented the meeting of Mediterranean female musicians: Sylvie Paz on vocals, Perrine Mansuy on piano, Naïssam Jalal on flute, Diler Özer on percussion and DJ Ipek for sound design.
The lyrics were contemporary women’s poetry set to music. It was advertised that the performance was a history of women’s resistance. The singer read the lyrics in different languages on a page in front of her. It did not make it easy to get the message of feminine resistance through.
Baba Zula is a Turkish band from Istanbul, a metropolis located at the crossroads of the East and the West. The musicians grew up in the underground music scene and forged their own identity with traditional folklore, rock and heavy metal.
At the Salle des Sucres, Baba Zula plunged us into a psychedelic experience. We listened to the musical legacy of the Ottoman Empire that lasted from 1299 to 1923, and that ruled North Africa and the Middle East.
Baba Zula’s Murat Ertel on the electric saz wandered into the public. When she returned, singer Melike invited the audience to follow her during the song “Acis, Hopçe”. She swung, dressed in a green dress with veils floating between her arms and body.
Fuelled by the energy of the band, the young ladies in the audience started to shake their bodies. They were probably members of a fitness club teaching belly dance or Turkish tsifteteli.
David Bowie used to sing “We Could Be Heroes just for one day”. We were the queens and kings of the night with Baba Zula.
Djmawi Africa is an Algerian band formed in 2004. They practice a fusion of chaabi, reggae and Gnawa rituals with essentially a rock rhythm section. We felt the band has an international stage experience.
Djmawi Africa kicked off their performance at the Salle des Sucres with the song “Lala Aicha”. First, we could hear the violinist playing Middle Eastern accents. Then followed the guembri (a Gnawa bass lute) and the guitarist who played blistering solos and deep-rooted riffs.
African bands have a tendency to produce a festive atmosphere throughout the concert time, Djmawi Africa had a different approach. At times, slower compositions allowed us to enjoy the subtlety and diversity of their musicality, and then the band offered an energy-packed set.
Djmawi Africa love to explore the sounds and added the kora, djembe, the ngoni to their list of instruments.
Djmawi Africa, a progressive and eclectic Algerian band that pleasantly surprised us with its respect of Africanness and musical colors played on modern and ethnic instruments.
Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion