Thursday, November 09, 2006


Rai Smile

Last night was a slow night for TV, as anyone who was at home would have noticed. In these circumstances, I find myself reaching for the darker recesses of Freeview, often with very little joy - however, last night I alighted on BBC4 and The African Rock 'n' Roll Years.

It was a show that I'd seen in the TV listings, but never got around to watching. Last night's show homed in on North African music, which is something I have a passing interest in, and was sheer joy to watch.

There were a few songs and artists that I'd heard of before, and many that I hadn't. "Ya Rayah" by Rachid Taha - this song a classic Rai song, which has been done by many, but I had never heard of anything else by him. They played a big burst of his version of "Rock The Casbah" by The Clash, which he recorded as "Rock El Casbah", and was absolutely awesome - complete with Arabic Groove beats and strings. I bought it on iTunes immediately.

Also featured was Cheb Mami, who has an absolutely astounding voice. He dueted with Sting on the track "Desert Rose", which was released whilst I was out of the country, so you may all be very familiar with it. It never fails to give me goosebumps (not normally associated with tracks that have Sting on them).

And lastly Khaled, who I only know for the track "Didi" which is very good Arabic Funk. There were so many other artists, and I hope they repeat the programme, because I'd like to write some of them down.

A lot of these songs are protest songs from Algeria which is an interesting intrtoduction to the political situation there. Many artists have been unable to return to their homelands for fear of death sentences, an one Algeria producer was indeed murdered for doing so. However, more than just being about Algeria, the programme featured many artists from Morocco, Egypt, Cambodia and Somalia in equal measure.

If you want to know about Arabic Groove, then a good bluffer's intro is the Arabica compilation series, which I would thoroughly recommend. Music from the heavens.

The Rough Guide to Rai Music

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