1970’s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground album cover
1970’s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground

Various Artists

1970 - 1979
Sublime Frequencies

The word raï has become almost synonymous with its synth heavy 1980s iteration, but the Algerian music style actually emerged decades earlier, around the 1920s, in the port city of Oran, where multicultural influences blended with traditional rural sounds. The tracks collected on Sublime Frequencies' compilation are all recorded in the 1970s, somewhere in the middle of  raï’s evolution timeline, just before it transformed into the more electronic dance style of the chebs and chebbas (when singers began being called cheb or cheba, meaning “young man” or “young woman,” to highlight the new and rebellious vein of raï), but when it had already incorporated elements like the electric guitar (Cheb Zergui’s wah wah licks on “Ana Dellali” are especially good on here), organ, accordion, and trumpet. But while the instrumentation has changed over time, the ingredients that make raï what it is have remained constant throughout its evolution: the pounding, driving rhythms, first played with pots, pans, and traditional drums, and later with drum machines and production software, and its irreverent, emotion-filled lyrics. 

Megan Iacobini de Fazio

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