Algeria: Rai music makes UN cultural charts
Algeria's Rai music deals with topics like love, liberation, despair, and the struggle against social pressures.
Algeria's Rai music was inscribed on the United Nations' list of intangible cultural heritage. "New inscription on the #IntangibleHeritage List: Rai, a popular folk song of #Algeria," the UN cultural agency UNESCO tweeted.
Rai, whose biggest artists include Cheb Khaled and Cheb Mami, originated in Algeria during the latter decades of French colonial authority, dealing with topics like love, liberation, despair, and the struggle against social pressures.
🔴 BREAKING— UNESCO 🏛️ #Education #Sciences #Culture 🇺🇳 (@UNESCO) December 1, 2022
New inscription on the #IntangibleHeritage List: Raï, popular folk song of #Algeria 🇩🇿.
ℹ️ https://t.co/n5nd2IfvLJ #LivingHeritage pic.twitter.com/OMVUx3K6Fb
It began as a rural art form, with singers accompanied by a traditional band performing poetic texts in vernacular Arabic.
However, it had a spike in popularity beginning in the 1980s, centered on the western city of Oran.
In 1985, the city held Algeria's first Rai festival, and the genre soon spread to France, which has a substantial Algerian diaspora.
This catapulted vocalists like Cheikha Rimitti to global stardom and drew the attention of big record firms.
Cheb Khaled became the first singer from North Africa's Maghreb region to reach the global Top 50 with his song "Didi" in 1992.
Classic song of the day :— WANAMédias (@WANAMedias) February 25, 2019
Cheb Khaled - "Didi" 🇩🇿🎶
However, in the same year, extremists assassinated several Rai singers, including Cheb Hasni, the star of "sentimental Rai."
In the early 2000s, Rai began to battle for its position among other genres such as hip hop and R&B, while also being plagued by scandal with Cheb Mami's conviction for domestic violence.
However, it received a fresh lease on life this year with the remarkable success of Franco-Algerian DJ Snake's "Disco Maghreb," a tribute to the iconic Oran record label at the core of the genre.