Local Wire

Cheb Nacim

Rai (pronounced "rye") is the name given to the popular music that dominates Algeria's streets and nightclubs and that is present among immigrant communities throughout America. In its original form, rai was a simple folk music made with improvised lyrics and accompanied by flute. The genre evolved over the years, incorporating electronic instruments during the '70s and into the '90s, when singers like Khaled and Cheb Mami left the civil unrest in their native land and headed for France to launch their international careers. On this disc, London-based singer/songwriter Cheb Nacim incorporates influences gathered since he moved to England. There are elements of salsa, flamenco and pop in his music, which is accessible to the foreign ear, even if you don't understand Arabic. Tunes like "El Waldine" and "Khalouni, Khalouni" are danceable, containing Western and Middle Eastern elements such as modern keyboards and traditional Arabic percussion. In order to reach out to gringo ears, two tracks — "100% Nabrike" and " Moul Djalabe" — were remixed by Brit DJ Phil Thornton, who gives the tunes a club feel that wouldn't be out of place at any dance party.
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Ernest Barteldes