1970S ALGERIAN FOLK AND POP.

1970S ALGERIAN FOLK AND POP.

During the late-sixties and seventies, life in Algeria wasn’t easy. It hadn’t been since 1963, when Ahmed Ben Bella came to power following the Sand War. Two years later, he was overthrown by President Houari Boumediene. 

He continued the program of industrialisation. Since 1963, industries were state-controlled, within the authoritarian, socialist economy. Ahmed Ben Bella had been a hardliner. So was President Houari Boumediene. Under his leadership, the policies became were enforced even more rigidly. The army began to play a bigger part in his regime, while the only political party was marginalised. Anyone who spoke out against what was happening, was at risk.

Especially from the army, police, bureaucrats and censors. They were constantly on the look out for anyone opposed to the policies of the state. Political dissidents and radicals’ lives were at risk. Yet musicians, who could voice the fears of ordinary people, weren’t perceived as a risk to the state by Algeria’s military police.

This meant that during the seventies, the Algerian music industry was able to develop. Algeria’s military police perceived the country’s musicians as “hairies” and hippies, who were no risk to the state. They were wrong. Musicians always have the power to make a difference. Their music could voice the fears of ordinary people opposed to Algeria’s authoritarian regime. Yet the Algerian military police never realised this. They didn’t even attempt to censor Algerian music.

So, every week, new music was being released. One of the shops the new music made its way into, was Oasis Disques, on Khelifa Boukhalfa Street, in downtown Algiers. This included the music on 1970s Algerian Pop and Folk, which was recently released by Sublime Frequencies.

The music on 1970s Algerian Pop and Folk is part of an underground, musical counterculture. This music brought together a generation of Algerians. They all had one thing in common, their shared love of music. Lifelong friendships were born through music. 

Music was both a means a way to protest against the authoritarian regime, and a way to escape it. After all, music is escapism. It takes the listener to another place, where the trauma and drudgery of daily life is forgotten. That was the case back in the seventies, and is documented on 1970s Algerian Pop and Folk.

1970s Algerian Pop and Folk features twelve tracks. There’s contributions from Rachid and Fethi, Les Djinns, Kri Kri, Idir, Ahmed Malek and Les Abranis. Some artists feature twice. That’s quite fitting, given how important a part they played in the development of Algerian music. You’ll realise this when I tell you about 1970s Algerian Pop and Folk.

Opening 1970s Algerian Pop and Folk Rachid and Fethi’s Habit En Ich. This is one of two tracks from Rachid and Fethi. They were formerly members of Les Vautours, during the sixties. As the seventies dawned, the two brothers became a duo, a pioneering one at that. This i because they plugged-in and went electric. This was very different to what had gone before. Success was sure to follow, including with Ana Ghrib their second single. Bursting into life, the music is funky with an Eastern twist. It then becomes poppy and soulful. Flip over to the B-Side and Habit En Ich is a glorious fusion of Eastern and Western music. It literally explodes into life, with elements of pop, funk, rock and psychedelia melting into one. Cooing harmonies provide the backdrop for the vocals during a track that’s a mixture of the traditional and trippy.

Les Djinns are the mystery band on 1970s Algerian Pop and Folk. They feature twice, but very little is known about them. Their only single was Nadia, which was released on the La Voix Du Shara label. It’s a mid-tempo, guitar driven instrumental with a mesmeric Eastern sound. On the B-Side, Nesthel is a heartbreaking tale of betrayal.

Freedom (Houriya) are another group founded by two brothers. This time, it’s Saad and Hocime Kezim. Hocime had already enjoyed some success as a musician. He’d previously been a member of a successful band. He gave this up, to concentrate on Freedom. They recorded a quartet of tracks in Wigan, England. One of them was Sabrina, which gave the band a huge hit. Sadly, the record company never paid Freedom the royalties they were entitled to. This proved a devastating blow, one the brothers never recorded from. Tucked away on the B-Side to Sabriana was Abadane. It has a  sixties psychedelic pop sound. Emerging from the fuzzy sounding backdrop is a beautiful ballad, designed to tug at your heartstrings. 

Kri Kri was a vehicle for Abdelkrim Zouaoui, who was born in Constantine, in Northern Algeria. He was an influential artist. One of his singles is the beautiful, heartfelt ballad Wahdi. It’s a fusion of pop and fuzzy psychedelia. There’s even a nod to John Lennon on this glorious hidden gem, which was released as Kri Kri’s debut single on Oasis Disques.

Ahmed Malek is a prolific songwriter, arranger and composer. He’s written many soundtracks. That’s apparent on Hawajez (Barriers), which has a cinematic sound. It sounds like part on the soundtrack to a seventies art house film. Silence Des Cendres is best described as being blessed with an ethereal beauty that’s extremely beautiful.

Idir was an accidental singer. Originally, El Hamid Cheriet was meant to get a job with Algerian Petroleum. Then he was asked to stand in for the female singer Ingrid. This was the start of the rise and rise of Idir. His debut single A Vava Inou Va, which was a tender, impassioned ballad  was a huge hit. After that, Idir enjoyed a long and successful career.

Les Abranis were founded by three friends in the late sixties. They all shared similar musical tastes, including The Doors, Grateful Dead and The Who. By 1974, they released their debut single Athedjaladde. Then in the mid-seventies, two members left to form Syphax. This meant they minded out on Les Abranis’ biggest hit single Chenagh Le Blues. It’s a track from their 1977 album Les Abranis 1977. A moody, lysergic fusion of blues, rock and psychedelia and it’s one of the highlights of 1970s Algerian Folk and Pop.

Smail Chaoui’s N’sani N’sani is a real fusion of musical influences and genres. Everything from folk, pop, rock and soul-jazz are combined to create a heartfelt soul-baring ballad.

Djamel Allem is one of the veterans of the Algerian music scene. His career began in 1970, when he emigrated to France. He was taken under the wing of Brigitte Fontaine and Areski. Two years later, he returned to Algeria the conquering hero. He opened for Brigitte Fontaine and Areski. Since then, his career has taken a few twists and turns. A truly versatile artist, that’s apparent when you hear Ourestrou, which cioses 1970s Algerian Folk and Pop. Its understated, wistful arrangement, is perfect for a vocal that’s laden with emotion. It’s a beautiful way to close 1970s Algerian Folk and Pop.

It seems that with every week, a compilation of music from another far flung part of the world is released. That’s no bad thing. After all, the world is a much smaller place these days. Travel is cheaper, and it’s much easier, and cheaper to visit these far flung corners of the world. People are also much more interested in the culture and music of these places. The music of many of these countries is a veritable treasure trove. That’s the case with Algeria, and is obvious on 1970s Algerian Folk and Pop, which was recently released by Sublime Frequency.

The music on 1970s Algerian Folk and Pop was released during one of the most turbulent times in Algerian history. Life was tough under the leadership of President Houari Boumediene. His authoritarian rule saw much of Algerian industry fall under state control. Anyone who spoke out against what was happening, was at risk. 

Especially from the military police and censors. They were constantly on the look out for anyone opposed to the policies of the state. Political dissidents and radicals’ lives were at risk. Yet musicians, who could voice the fears of ordinary people weren’t perceived as a risk to the state by Algeria’s military police. 

Ironically, the Algerian music scene thrived during the seventies. Everything from folk, pop, psychedelia, rock and soul was released. It can be heard on 1970s Algerian Folk and Pop. The music on 1970s Algerian Folk and Pop is best described as beautiful, eclectic, ethereal lysergic and melancholy and an enchanting introduction to Algerian music’s past.

1970S ALGERIAN FOLK AND POP.

51ZBWEkTEeL

 

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