Thursday, January 14, 2016

New Algerian music scene: Sofiane Saidi, NOMAD'stones, Labess

A couple informants have clued me into a 'new' music scene happening in Algeria. Three examples of what is a broader trend, that includes Kabylia -- but I have no examples yet from the latter.

1. NOMAD'stones

The sound is very French, with vocals in Arabic, and the look of the vid is too. And no wonder, it was filmed (for reasons I don't know) in Montreal. Can't find much material on them as of yet, but it's a great sound.

2. Labess

Labess are in fact a Montreal-based Algerian group, led by singer and guitarist Nedjim Bouizzoul, who was born in Algeria, and moved to Montreal with his family in 2003. Although based in Canada, their reputation has spread to the Maghreb and the Maghrebi diaspora, and so it makes sense to link them to the "Algerian" scene. Read more about the group here.

3. Sofiane Saidi

This track is my favorite of the three, probably because it kicks so, so hard, and is at basis a modernized version of a "rai trab" song, rai in the style of a Cheikha Rimitti or a Cheikha Rabia. (And perhaps the presence of Transglobal Underground's Tim Whelan on the track helps too.) Sofiane Saidi was born in Sidi Bel Abbès, one of the birthplaces of rai music. (Although Oran is often considered to be the wellspring of rai, both Sidi Bel Abbès and Aïn Témouchent are important cradles of the genre as well.) He has been performing for some time, at least since the mid-90s, and has worked in the past with the likes of Natacha Atlas (he appears on her 2006 album Mish Maoul) and with Tunisian oudist Smadj (on his 2015 album Spleen). His first album, El Mordjane (The corral), was released in December 2015. It's quite good, but this track, "Gasbah Ya Moul El Taxi" (roughly, take me to the Casbah, cabbie), is by far the best.

Read more about Sofiane Saidi here and here

(Hopefully my informants will hip me to more of the new Algerian scene.)

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