Raï has been Algeria’s “voice of the voiceless” since it emerged from Oran’s shantytowns in the ‘20s. For the full story of raï’s transformation into a genre that made waves around the world, check out our Hip Deep show, “The Story of Raï,” broadcasting on stations around the country this week and available as an Afropop Worldwide podcast. In spite of relatively little exposure to international listeners in recent years, raï remains incredibly popular in Algeria. It’s been over a year since we last checked in on some of the new developments in raï and its synth-filled offshoot raï ’n’ b. Here then is a little taste of the wonderfully uninhibited world of raï.
Yacine Tiger and Bibi Maestro, Live Skikda 2016
This is a gleeful mix from two of raï’s best-named performers, Yacine Tiger and Bibi Maestro. Tons of swirling synths, pulsating rhythms and autotuned vocals are to be found here. There is also marimba and pan flute. After several uproarious tracks, the mix ends with a slow, mystically warped synth and darbuka finish that will leave you to contemplate the magnificence of the cosmos.
Houari Dauphin, “Sghira”
Houari Dauphin is a raï veteran, who began his career in Oran way back in the ‘80s. Dauphin’s smooth, romantic voice is still in top shape on the powerful new track, “Sghira.” More polished than Yacine Tiger and Bibi Maestro’s mix, “Sghira” eschews the Auto-Tune, but uses synths gracefully with fluttering piano keys and orchestral arrangements, making this one sound like a bit of a throwback to raï’s international heyday in the ‘90s
Cheb Djalil, “Téléphone Ysouni”
Cheb Djalil represents raï’s young generation. He began performing at marriages and circumcisions in the Algerian cities of Mascara, Tlemcen and Oran in the late ‘00s. Today, he continues to perform songs of love and enchanting sentimentality for the youth of Algeria. In “Téléphone Ysouni,” fluttering synths build up to a passionate, emotional climax.