Orchestre National de Barbès gets their name from the area around the metro station Barbès-Rochechouart in Paris – home to many algerian expats. It is a place where north african music – sufi music, raï – mixes with other impulses. The orchestra was founded in the middle of the nineties by the algerian bass player Youcef Boukala, who already had scored hits in the french-algerian music underground. In ONDB, he got together with fellow musicians from Algeria and Morocco. Their first record, “En Concert”, laid the groundwork for a position as a much sought after live band, all over the world, which is as strong as ever. The band still insist that their music is pop music – even though many might suggest other labels, like folk music or arabesque.
If you look at the origins of a genre like raï, which originated in the 1920s in the algerian port town Oran, you might see their point, though. Orchestre National de Barbès brings other sounds to the table also, but their main inspiration comes from a deeply urban genre, invented by youth seeking freedom to express new thoughts – and to borrow freely from the new impulses coming their way. That still counts as pop music – and in the hands of ONDB, it makes for an unforgettable concert experience as well.