Albums

€13.99

Raï - Released January 1, 1999 | Barclay

On September 26, 1998, in Paris, France, one of the major events of Algerian music took place -- the concert termed 1,2,3 Soleils. Together on the same stage Khaled (the king of rai), Rachid Taha (the musical rebel), and Faudel (rai's young prince) entertained a crowd of over 14,000. It was a coming of age for the music and for the Algerians themselves, too long regarded as second-class citizens. The audience's excitement is palpable right from the start, as the orchestra (arranged throughout by former prog rocker Steve Hillage) launches into the instrumental "Khalliouni Khalliounni" to massive cheers that only become louder as the three principals take the stage to share vocal duties on "Menfi." From there it's a series of duets and solos and two more trios in the middle before they come together for three more tunes at the end, culminating in an explosive version of the classic "Ya Rayah" before closing out with "Comme D'Habitude." Certainly one of the most interesting pairings is "Eray" with Faudel and Khaled together, the youngster holding his own with the master. It's tempting to think of it as handing on the baton, but instead it's really two wonderful vocalists singing as if their lives depended on it -- as is the case when they come together again for Khaled's hit "Aicha." For their solo spots (Khaled, as the biggest name, gets two), each man gives his party piece, "Ida" for Taha and the hit "Tellement N'Brick" for Faudel (Khaled contributes "Wahrane Wahrane" and an R&B take on his breakthrough "N'ssi N'ssi" that turns it into an Marvin Gaye-goes-rai number). Perhaps inevitably, it's Khaled, the best-established and best-loved performer, who casts the longest shadow, and Taha, the iconoclast, who seems most in the background, although he does shine given his moments in the spotlight. It's great music that is expansively performed and the album is a commemoration of a moment that's as much historical as musical. ~ Chris Nickson
Yal

Raï - Released May 25, 1999 | RCA Victor

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From the Algerian expatriate (now in France) Takfarinas comes this album of Kabyle songs. At first listen, one might note a thick relation to Algeria's primary export: rai. As it happens however, this music stands as part of a movement to counter the popularity of rai from the Amazighs. There are similarities with to be found with rai, but the overall music is much more broadly influenced, with highly noticeable bits of flamenco, jazz, and perhaps zouk wandering into the main sound throughout the course of the album. The album starts out with perhaps the most rai-like number in "Zaama Zaama," then moves quickly into a showcase of musical diversity as song after song contains a little motif or two from the various styles that are thrown into the pot. "Ayessiyi" contains a bit of Tamazight rapping, "Lounes" makes use of some soulful saxophone work, and "Tanoumi" stands as a good example of the shaabi genre. The lyrics are largely in Tamazight, though there is some French as well, always with the tenacious North African vocal techniques. The songs deal largely with love themes, mildly different from the usual political fare in the Kabyle (Amazigh) forms. With the breadth of sound involved in this album, it makes a perfect item to pick up for those looking for something Algerian that isn't rai. ~ Adam Greenberg

Raï - Released October 29, 2004 | RCA Records Label

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€16.99

Raï - Released September 10, 2001 | Warner Strategic Marketing

€4.99

Raï - Released November 28, 2005 | GPM

€9.99

Raï - Released January 1, 2006 | ARC

Booklet
Cheb Nacim, not really known in the same league as the other current stars of rai (such as Cheb Mami) or even the slightly older generation (Faudel, Cheb Hasni, Rachid Taha), still packs a punch on this, what would appear to be his first album on the world market. The style is musically complex, eschewing the pure keyboard and string power of much rai and ignoring some of the rock-based punches of the more modern, rebellious end of the genre as well. While keyboards and strings are certainly present and add accentuation when needed, much of the instrumentation is a little more electronic, a little more sparse, a little more clipped. Vocally, Nacim uses a style similar in many ways to Cheb Hasni, a strong influence in his development. With the additional support of Hossam Ramzy and Phil Thornton (who remixes a pair of songs at the end of the album as well), there are extra influences built into the music with Indian characteristics, with Egyptian characteristics (the doumbek in particular), with bits of jazz and rock. The songs here are a mix of originals, Hasni pieces, and pieces written by Dahmane el Harrachi. Nonetheless, the sound is relatively stable throughout. Overall, the performances are quite good. The music is a bit flat for rai, missing some of the sheer power and emotion that can make the genre so powerful. Nacim's vocals are well-developed, but again somewhat flat. There is emotion present, but not enough to convey the depths aroused by the themes of the works. A nice album, but pick up some of the masters first. ~ Adam Greenberg
€5.99

Raï - Released March 28, 2006 | Charly Records

€9.99

Raï - Released March 28, 2006 | Charly Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
€5.99

Raï - Released March 28, 2006 | Charly Records

€5.99

Raï - Released March 28, 2006 | Charly Records

€7.99

Raï - Released March 28, 2006 | Charly Records

€9.99

Raï - Released March 28, 2006 | Charly Records

€9.99

Raï - Released March 28, 2006 | Charly Records

€9.99

Raï - Released March 28, 2006 | Charly Records

€5.99

Raï - Released April 3, 2006 | GPM

Distinctions The Unusual Suspects
€9.99

Raï - Released May 26, 2006 | Charly Records

€14.99

Raï - Released January 1, 2006 | Barclay

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
With his previous album, Tékitoi, providing some outstanding contemporary ideas in the realm of rai, Rachid Taha returns on Diwan 2 to more rootsy sounds, reminiscent (of course) of Diwan. The sound is derived from some of Taha's musical influences: largely from Algeria and the exile population in France, but with a couple of originals, some French influences, and a couple from Egypt. The album starts out with an old piece from Mohamed Mazouni and a much more relaxed tone than many of Taha's opening tracks on other albums. After a quick romp through a bit of music from Oran, he returns to a relaxed sound with "Agatha," a piece on racism and interracial adultery, before moving on to a form of slightly higher-energy chaabi, "Kifache Rah" (with some musical similarity to the massive hit "Ya Rayah"). The energy finally picks up to his usual levels with some ney, call and response, and thicker drums on "Josephine." "Gana El Hawa," as well as Umm Kulthum's classic "Ghanni Li Shwaya," provide an opportunity for the Cairo String Ensemble to come into their own as accompaniment (though indeed they are present on a number of tracks besides the Egyptian ones). Throughout the album, the mood is perhaps more relaxed, but also more somber than in many of his previous works. The energy never rises too high, and seems nearly suppressed when it does get closer to his standard levels. The focus is entirely on the structure of the music and the references to the past, both musical and historical. Still, an excellent album by any standard. It does seem like Taha is quietly unwound on this recording, trading anger for melancholy. ~ Adam Greenberg
€9.99

Raï - Released January 1, 2007 | Plaza Mayor Company, Ltd.

€9.99

Raï - Released September 20, 2007 | Buda musique

€7.99

Raï - Released March 3, 1996 | Rue bleue

Call Sawt el Atlas the younger brothers of Orchestre National de Barbes on the strength of this impressively varied debut album by the Paris-based group, with its creative core drawn from two families. It's the music of second generation immigrants drinking from North African roots influences, filtered through growing up amidst the cosmopolitan musical mix of Paris. The opening song, "Zmane," sets the tone: it's got a solid R&B/funk groove, then drops in a house piano lick, then some rai-derived Arab pop vocals over racing djerbouka beats, and finally, some heavy guitar punctuation. The reggae-inflected verses also incorporate trade-offs between the lead vocalists, and from synth to clavinet keyboard lines. Got all that? Good, because it's typical of the wide range of influences on Generaliser, although the title of "Ragga Raï" really sums up the base of the sound -- it's a funky ragga-rai-reggae party. The key is how well Sawt el Atlas handle all their different style moves and sonic touches. The arrangements are well-crafted, full of changes and details without overplaying them; the needs of the songs rule, and the music flows unforced and organic. Sawt El Atlas have obviously thought everything through -- the songs go well beyond riff and groove formulas -- but nothing is gratuitous, and all that thinking hasn't squeezed dry the life and emotion in the music. The title track leans toward the rai side: mixed funky bass and JB-scratch rhythm guitar, before throwing in a pushing ragga transition. The keyboard atmospherics of "Arde Lille" -- the title ("Lille Is Burning") makes you wonder about social commentary in the lyrics -- give way to upbeat rai, driven by strong vocals, phat bass, and drums crackling on the offbeat. The easy-skanking "Rabra Bina" returns to the ragga-rai home base blend, "Immigré" sports a sunny Jamaican groove, and fine singing and sensitive djerbouka on "Natchtou" shows that the group can adroitly handle a ballad. The uptempo "Amri" veers closer to funk, and "Sbabi" opens with heavy slide guitar before veering into an intriguingly strange half-funkin', half-skankin' groove, with djerbouka filling in the spaces. But Sawt El Atlas make it work, which you've come to expect by this point, on a very mature and confident debut that avoids false steps or shaky moves. ~ Don Snowden