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Khaled: Rebel of Raï - The Early Years
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I was 15 in the summer of ‘92 when my father took me on holiday to the beach town of Sousse in Tunisia. I was attracted to North Africa even then, the Arabic people, their graceful way of being, … the camels, whom I considered so dignified, the sand dunes, the date palms …
Khaled. ‘Didi’. The year was 1992.
But that holiday would be different; it would change the way I heard the world forever.
Having discovered the radio at the age of 6, I was hooked. I would listen to everything: pop, rock (‘n’ roll), rap, soul, disco … Radio became a way of life, my main source of emotion and inspiration, discovery and delight. I would ardently follow the weekly charts.
That holiday in Tunisia disoriented all I had ever grown to know and understand. It literally removed the ground from below my feet. One night (my father had fallen asleep), I crept out of our hotel room. I wanted to find out where the action was. Just outside the hotel complex was a low-rise building – with flashing, colourful lights and music, loud music. I ventured in. Wow! All the best pop hits from back home: Shabba Ranks’ ‘Mr Loverman’, Snap’s ‘The Power’, Black Box’s ‘Ride on Time’ … It was truly incredible to hear this music in the setting it was designed for (I had only experienced night clubs in films and on TV).
Suddenly, from nowhere, a voice and a track I had never heard before. It was so funky and brilliant. I was blown away. A perfect slice of pop music – why hadn’t I heard it before? Why hadn’t it featured in the charts back home? Khaled’s ‘Didi’.
It was then I knew – there was pop music beyond the island on which I lived. I felt betrayed, led to believe that British radio stations were playing the best pop music around. That one single moment cancelled everything out. Not that Anglophone pop music was not great, but that there was much more to pop music than that.
When I got back home, I wrote to Capital Radio. They simply had to get this on their playlists. They actually replied and seemed interested … But ‘Didi’ never did receive airplay in the UK or appear in the UK charts. But it did dramatically change my concept of the pop music industry – forever. What is also important to note is that ‘Didi’ was being celebrated and played all across Europe, on mainstream music radio!
Now, 17 years later, having ‘lived with’ Khaled’s music for the greatest part of my life, I am bringing together the best of his early work – the roots of ‘Didi’ – on a 2CD set released on Nascente this May.
Under the moniker of dj Aicha, I have been privileged to be able to play Khaled’s music at clubs, gigs (including dj support for his tour dates in Sweden) and festivals. Over the last 10 years, I have played his music to a mixed audience of Europeans and North Africans in the UK, Germany, Sweden and Denmark. The songs in this collection have been tried and tested, and they are indeed timeless. Even after many years of listening to and playing them, they are still so good. They possess that multi-faceted quality – allowing the listener to hone in on a variety of levels.
Working with Nascente, we were blessed to get licence approval for all the tracks which I initially selected – some of which I had only dreamed of including. Fortunately, as some are hard-to-find, they have now been captured on this collection. I have included six and three tracks from the albums Kutché and Hada Raïkoum respectively, both groundbreaking albums of their time. (The songs ‘Raïkoum’ and ‘Yamina’ – re-workings of which appear on Khaled’s latest album – feature in their original, and to my ear superior, versions on Rebel of Raï). I have also included Khaled’s first ever release, the single ‘Trig Lycée’ from 1974. Raï’s female counterpart, Cheba Zahouania, contributes with her warm and smoky vocals on three tracks.
Khaled: Rebel of Raï — The Early Years is released on Nascente on the 25 May 2009, compiled by Tatiana Rucinska (dj Aicha).
Born in London to Polish parents and now living in Sweden’s capital Stockholm, Tatiana Rucinska specialises in music from Algeria (but listens to everything). She works for UK music magazine Songlines and for Sveriges Radio (Swedish equivalent to the BBC) where she is music programmer for the internet’s 24-hour global jukebox SR Världen. As dj Aicha, she performs at clubs, gigs and festivals in Stockholm and around Sweden, playing music from Algeria, Morocco and ‘the other side of Paris’.
Tatiana Rucinska (dj Aicha)
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Khaled: Rebel of Raï - The Early Years
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