Music that sets out to appeal both to Rai fans and the pop market.
Robin Denselow 2010-07-01
The 1,2,3, Soleils concert was one of the great events in the history of Rai music. Held in September 1998, at the massive Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy, it brought together three of the superstars of the Algerian rebel musical style, and was recorded to become a best-selling 2-CD gold album. As the title suggests, the show had three major stars. There was Khaled, the ‘King of Rai’, the singer best-known for updating traditional Algerian styles with influences from Western funk and pop, who notched up massive hits in France and across the Arab world with songs like Didi and Aicha. Then there was Rachid Taha, famous for his explosive blend of Algerian styles and Western rock and punk. And finally there was Faudel, a singer who was then just 20 years old, born in France, and had been very much a disciple of Khaled’s music before branching out to develop a distinctive style of his own.
As far as non-Algerian audiences were concerned, Faudel was (and remains) the least known of the three, though he has gone to experiment with flamenco, rap, raga and French pop styles, sometimes in the company of that gloriously original French band, Les Negresses Vertes. This new album is described on the sleeve as being “les plus grands standards du Rai réintérprétés”, and is indeed just that: a re-working of Rai favourites in the distinctively easy-going Faudel style.
This is music that sets out to appeal both to Rai fans and the more middle-of-the road pop market, and the often lush, rhythmic backing mixes keyboards and programming with brass, accordion and violins, or North African or Middle Eastern instruments like the oud or the ney flute. Faudel’s singing is aimed firmly at this crossover market, with an approach that manages to sound both relaxed and gently urgent. The result is a pleasant, often easy-going set that matches grand, sweeping songs like El Beïda Mon Amour and the tuneful, upbeat Khalini against the laidback Sidi Boumediene (once recorded by the young Khaled) and the sturdy and driving Zine Li Atak Allah. It’s an album that Faudel’s followers will no doubt enjoy, but it’s not as distinctive as Khaled’s most recent release, Liberté.