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.
The Bee is a nature lover and tea addict. Loves the idea of slow life and responsible traveling, constantly trying to improve to bee more eco-friendly. Appreciates old cultures and traditions, loves to immerse with locals, listen to ethnic music as well as taste regional food and drinks. Her favorite spots while traveling are family houses and street markets.
What an interesting idea for an article! You sure seem to have learned a lot during your Algeria trip. The Gnawa music sounds really interesting, I would love to visit Algeria and experience this someday. Thank you for sharing and keep up the great work!
Thank you Daniel :*
I didnt have any idea about algerian music before reading this post. It’s a truly informative piece. Loved reading about how the different kinds of music deveoped and where they originated from. The Gnawa origin is so interesting – sufism and pre-islamic african!
Thank you Sinjana :*
And i thought i know enough about the music. Your blog on music puts me to shame literally for having so little knowledge about music . The moment I read about Gnawa I change my music playlist into that. And wow you travelled to Algeria , kudos! So much through the world of courage and curiosity.
I am so happy you discovered something totally new today and enjoyed it! Love this feeling! Yes, traveling to ALgeria was one of my this year besties 😉
Wow i had no idea about Algerian music before.I really Loved reading about how the music developed and where they originated from. I really like Arabian music so i found Gnawa very interesting. Thanks for sharing this wonderful piece of knowledge.
Happy you liked it! 😉
I never knew of Algerian music before reading your post. For me in the music world, I know Western classical music and Indian Carnatic music apart from rural and folk pieces of music of the world. Algerian music looks interesting especially the Labess and I would now try to search for it . Thanks for the unique piece of information.
Indian Carnatic music sounds interesting, I will search for it 😀
I am amazed to find out your love for music and how beautifully you have penned down this article on Algerian Music. Completely fascinated by the music part. I agree that Algeria is not the popular choice when it comes to Africa. But I would definitely like to explore this country, specially Oran. Since you have mentioned about how liberal this city is and how its a good blend of art and culture.
Oran was my favorite city in ALgeria, I am sure you would like it. Thank you for stopping by Parnashree
Awesome that you got to travel and see the real culture of Algerian music! The Gnawa music sounds awesome and the origin is very interesting! Thank you for sharing such a unique article
I have been intrigued by Algeria for a long time. And, your post has further piqued it by describing a place through alternative music. If ever I get an opportunity, I would love to visit Oran for its influence on music and arts as well. The whole music potpourri of mixes reggae with rai and rock singing about the luck of democracy sounds such a cool idea to experience in person. Thanks for sharing this post. I have a new destination on my map now.
Thank you so much :*