Our recently aired program “The Story of Rai” presented the history of genre born and raised in the Algerian city of Oran. But Oran has more to its musical history than just rai. This guest mix, primarily drawn from the other traditions of the city, comes to us from Chris Silver, who writes the terrific Jewish Morocco Blog. Chris explains what he compiled for us:
Buried in the bric-a-brac shops dotting the approach to Algiers’ casbah are Algeria’s Jewish voices of yesteryear. Indeed one needn’t dig through the stacks of vinyl and shellac records long before coming across the likes of genre-bending performers like Salim Halali, whom Mahieddine Bachetarzi, the grand doyen of Algerian song and stage known as the “Caruso of the Desert,” referred to as, “the greatest Arab male voice of the postwar period.” Consider this all-45 rpm mix, then, a primer and a testament to the outsized role played by the country’s Jewish musicians in the first two-thirds of the 20th century. In an era immediately before chaabi and preceding raï by some decades, multitalented artists like Lili Labassi pushed the boundaries of Algerian Arabic music in new, exciting directions while laying down 78 rpm record after 78 rpm record for Columbia, Polydor, and even RCA. Later, Lili Boniche and Luc Cherki, the so-called “crooners of the casbah,” blended western and North African rhythms to produce hits like the former’s “Ya Samira,” included here. Over the next hour you will hear a sampling of all of this and more. We start with Salim Halali and his iconic cover of the Moroccan song “Sidi Hbibi” before moving on to a Luc Cherki istikhbar and disco number and eventually to a trio of pieces performed by Blond Blond, Lili Labassi, and the Algéroise diva Line Monty, dedicated to a love of city (Oran and Algiers) and nation (Djazaïr). René Perez and Lili Boniche round out this mix before we arrive at the rarest piece in this collection: the Andalusian piano stylings of the one and only Sariza Cohen.