The origins of Rai

The video above shows Algerian pop legend Cheb Khaled's first song, at the tender age of 14 in 1974. It comes via Ted Swedenburg, who has an epic history of Rai — the Maghrebi style of music born in Algeria in the 1970s — and discovered that Cheb Khaled's song came several years earlier than what he had hitherto believed to be the inventors of the rai sound, Messaoud Bellamou and Boutaiba Sghir. The whole essay is fascinating, lavishly illustrated with album covers and music — a must-read for anyone interested in Maghrebi or Arabic music.

(h/t Abu Aardvark.)

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.