Saturday, August 22, 2009


Last week, I posted 2 videos featuring the Algerian Rai singer Khaled. I was trying to show the breadth of his artistry and the sense of adventure as he pushes the boundaries of Rai.
"Tarab" is a difficult word to translate from Arabic. It evokes a form of ectasy that an audience can experience when listening to powerfully moving vocal music. This word applies to Khaled and the effect his singing has had on countless people in audiences all over the world.

The first time I heard Khaled, he was on a French music program in the early 90's. he performed his international hit "N'ssi N'ssi" with a muscular band with a great horn section powered by the bass playing of Don Was, who produced the song.
After I heard it, I thought I had imagined the quarter toned fusion of funk and Algerian traditional forms. I went out and bought the record.

At the time, Khaled was an exile from his home in Algeria. The Fundamentalists had declared that his music was evil. They were waging a war against Rai, the popular music of rebellion and youth. That is a war that can never be won, music and youth will always triumph.

Khaled went on to make records that crossed all genres of pop music. On his Kenza recording in the late 90's, he teamed up with the Israeli artist, Noa, to do a duet of John Lennon's Imagine.
He gained a world wide following and took Rai into a world of electronic soundscapes and hip hop beats, but he remained the same artist who could go into a cafe and with just his accordion, captivate an audience until dawn, playing traditional Rai.
Liberté is his newest release and reclaims the traditional forms and eschews the electronic music production he sometimes seemed mired in.

The songs again have the introductions, there is again the subtlety of his vocal technique. The sophisticated microtonality and soaring raspy soulfulness, the interplay of beats and language...flavored with the sounds of northern Africa and the musical traditions of the Mediterrenean.
There is traditional Algerian instrumentation mixed with horn sections, Egyptian String sections and back up singing with his old friends, Rita Marley and IThree for a little Jamaican flavah.
The production by Martin Messionier completes the vision. Messionier plays bass as well, and is able to bring varied sounds and textures to the grooves he creates.

By coming back to the roots of his music, Khaled has discovered a lush forest.
I would like to recommend this record, Liberté, by Khaled with out reservations!

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