Have you ever heard any alternative music from Algeria? Country’s popular music is called Rai and I am sure you heard a song Aisha, which was popular back in 90′? Besides, Algerian music has lots of African as well as Arabic influences. Now you can imagine, that alternative music in Algeria is a fascinating blend. I prepared few bands for you to discover. Of course, it’s not all what alternative stage in Algeria has, just a few of my favorites. If you like my propositions, dig in for more.
Alternative music in Algeria
If you have already read some of my world music articles, you know that I love when tradition blends with modern sounds and instruments. I was already writing about music from Poland, Indonesia or Ukraine. Algerian musicians carry heritage of North African ethnic groups. Listening to Algerian music is like a lesson of the history at the same time.
Imagine how difficult is to make alternative music in a conservative society and country which still has censorship. Unfortunately, lots of artists are being banned if they collide with the values of the country. For example the movie about Algerian War was banned because if the scene of Martyrs drinking alcohol.
However, it’s not only the government, but also the people who disagree for certain art performances. Conservative society does not accept art which would harm their beliefs. For instance, when I was in Algiers, a friend of mine took me to the bridge and said that it used to be a bridge of love where couples were leaving lockers, like in Paris. Some people started to protest, that they disagree for this way of showing feelings, some other started to defend it. Government removed lockers to finish riots. As you see, sometimes governments takes an action just to keep the country in social peace.
In conclusion, the situation in Algeria is complexed. The sure fact is that it’s not easy for the artists to take the path they want to take and succeed. They often are by themselves, without opportunities to develop and grow. Therefore, I admire their strength, determination and love for what they do. As you will see later in the article, sometimes they choose to move to another country to play their music.
Check out also how politically incorrect alternative music in Tunisia went through the regim and revolution.
Gnawa diffusion depicts ancestry of Gnawa. This ethnic group was living in the North – West Africa, where Algeria and Morocco are now. Gnawa music mixes classical Islamic Sufism with pre-Islamic African traditions. Gnawa musicians usually refer to healing rituals in animism. They play deeply hypnotic trance music, call-and-response singing, hand clapping and cymbals called krakeb. Gnawa ceremonies use music and dance to evoke ancestral saints who can drive out evil, cure psychological ills or be a remedy for scorpion stings.
This is the most popular band from alternative music in Algeria, playing gnawa mixed with roots and reggae. Gnawa Diffusion is Algerian band living in France, using heritage of gnawa music in a original arrangements and using traditional instruments of North Africa. They sing in Arabic, French, English and Tamazight – Berber languages.
I was listening a lot of Labess, when I was living in Tunisia, as he is quite famous there. Band leader – Nedjim Bouizzoul is Algerian – Canadian. Band performs Algerian gnawa, chaâbi – arabic – andalusian music mixed with rumba and flamenco.
Djam & Djamawi Africa
I want to introduce you Ahmed Djamil Ghouli alias DJAM. A great musician and composer which formed the group Djmawi Africa. The first album called “Mama” from 2007 was recorded at Canal 93 in a suburb of Paris. The album was on the top of alternative music stage in Algeria for two years.
In 2015 Djamil decided to quit Djamawi Africa and focus on his solo album. Now he performs as DJAM. A new album is more of a reggae and African roots.
Democratoz – Algerian Reggae
Reggae from my favorite city in Algeria – Oran. This place is considered as the most liberal in the whole country, which has it’s influence on music and arts as well. Democratoz mixes reggae with rai and rock singing about luck of democracy. The band is from the new generation of artists which perform without thinking of negative consequences. They believe in the importance of expressing ourselves. Their lyrics are controversial, talk about revolution and politics.
“Many people think like me, that the authorities think we’re fools. But they don’t dare to say so. As for me, I hesitated, I thought about what might happen to my family if I got into trouble. If I am accused of a crime, I will not have the money to afford a lawyer, but I do not care. It was important to express ourselves, and the audience seems to enjoy it.”
Sadek Bouzinou – lead singer of Democratoz
Index – Algerian soft rock mixed with gnawa
Harmonica – Algerian folk fusion
Traveling in Algeria
Did you know that Algeria is the biggest country in Africa? Algeria is not a popular tourism destination due to the luck of knowledge about safety in Algeria and not developed tourism industry. However, I have to tell you that traveling in Algeria was a fascinating experience. I was discovering the North of Algeria with the capital city – Algiers, stunning coast and beaches as well historical heritage of Oran, Tlemcen or Constantine. Moreover, ancient Roman Empire ruins in Tipaza and Timgad. If you would like to travel to Algeria and have more questions, don’t hesitate to ask.