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Born Bad

A Moi La Liberte: Early Electronic Rai - Algerie 1983-1990 - Various Artists

A Moi La Liberte: Early Electronic Rai - Algerie 1983-1990 - Various Artists

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Delving into the deepest recesses of raï, this compilation serves as a tribute to its roaring years, but also as a rejuvenation of the genre in its sulphurous, subterranean version. It seemed like a good idea to dig into nearly untraceable cassettes, thus confirming it’s in the oldest of Oranese pots that the very best of raï is to be found.

Just 50 years ago, no one would have believed even a bit in a genre seemingly bound to forever turn round and round in its native Oran, laying low in one of its many coastal road clubs. In these underground venues, singers – backed up by a minimalist orchestration for lack of space – would move their audience to laughs and tears, sobbing in a beer or chuckling down (dry) whisky. Either way, the public would unfailingly be moved by their defying tunes, sounding like a challenge to the established, self-righteous order of things – complete with trumpets, electric guitars, accordions and an array of percussions.

Through the pre and post-independence years, from 1950 to 1970, raï urbanised itself, with a generation growing up between asphalt and concrete to the sound of traditional flute, but also and mostly listening to twist, French variété and rock music. Their names were Boutaïba S’ghir, Messaoud Bellemou, Groupe El Azhar, Younès Benfissa or Zergui, and they passed on their collection of songs to the incoming “Chebs” –breathing a second youth into them. Oran, the capital of West-Algeria, will be at the heart of this rejuvenation.

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