Few musical genres share the complicated history of the Algerian Raï. Similarly, few Arab artists have gained the international reputation enjoyed by Khaled. Not only has he been the most important exporter of this peculiar musical form across the boundaries of Algeria. He is also credited for modernizing Raï and bringing it up today’s standards, using electronical instruments.
Raï developed in the Northern port cities of Algeria, Oran being the most important. In the early 20th century, Oran was divided into Arab, Jewish, Spanish and French quarters. Viewed by many Muslims as a den of sin, Oran was nevertheless a melting pot of cultures, especially for the working class and the poor. A product of cultural exchange, Raï evolved in the 1930s and was characterized by its blend of Bedouin song, Flamenco and cabaret music. The lyrics dealt with the many plights of the poor as well as more erotic themes, and this led to Raï being looked down upon by the rich, the religious and the socialists alike.
Khaled Hadj Ibrahim was in his twenties when he started performing Raï music in Oran in the early 1980s. After being threatened by islamists, he moved to France and started recording his music. His fame grew steadily and he conquered the world song by song: Hits like Didi, C’est la vie and Aysha (famously covered by Danish rap group Outlandish) have ensured Khaleds fame – as well as the fame of Raï all over the world.
Khaled performed at Oslo World Music Festival in 2009 and we look forward to experience his live show again!
In collaboration with the Algerian Embassy
Text: Kristian Krohg-Sørensen