Sunday, September 23, 2007


Baya Mahieddine: An Arab Woman Artist

by Sana` Makhoul

In 1947, Picasso took the sixteen year old Baya by the hand to his country home at Vallauris to watch her knead the clay and bring to life child-like shapes and figures. (1) Picasso, who stated that he spent his entire life learning how to paint like a child, was fascinated by the art and spontaneity of the Algerian woman artist, Baya Mahieddine. However, later on, in 1954, Algerian women became his exotic subjects in his series, Women of Algiers. I chose to undertake my research on Baya Mahieddine, an Arab woman artist of the twentieth century, for several reasons.

Baya was born at Bordj el-Kiffan in Algeria in 1931, to a poor family, and she never attended school. Canonized and conventional professional art making required some formal training. Similarly, class was a vital factor: professional art making was an accepted accomplishment for women from privileged upper-class families, but rarely for those from poorer families, who found it necessary to pursue more financially profitable professions. Poor women were and are making art, but not in the sense of being professional art makers; it is more often part of their daily life tradition and a tool to earn money for survival, and their work is usually considered craft rather than art by institutionalized definitions.

Baya, a poor servant and self-taught artist, produced a body of work that can be understood both from the perspective of class and her lack of formal education. Western colonizers directed art schools in Arab countries in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the early stages of modern Arab art movements, to aspire to become an artist was to learn the vocabulary of forms taught by Western artists who were the principal teachers in these schools. Despite the Arab world’s own multi-layered artistic heritage and traditions, this faculty consisted of European artists who taught the history of Western art beginning with the Renaissance. Students enrolled in these schools were taught by their European instructors to recognize and emulate the different styles of Western art, such as the Algerian artist, Mohammed Racim, who studied at L’Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts d’Alger. Some Arab artists went to Europe in order to receive art training there, and came back to their countries as strong proponents of Western styles and aesthetics, such as the Syrian artist, Tawfiq Tariq, who studied in Paris. This type of training produced a first generation of Arab modern artists whose works followed the different “isms” of the West, including Orientalism. Yet, some Arab artists did not follow the Western art tradition; instead, they adapted their own native artistic traditions, and Baya was among them.

At age five, Baya lost both her parents, and her grandmother took care of her. In 1936 Marguerite Benhoura, (2) a French woman, fled to Algeria to escape World War II. Algeria was then a French colony. Marguerite met the ten-year-old Baya in her village, Bordj el-Kiffan, and offered Baya a room in her house. Baya refers to her as her “adoptive parent.” (3) Being adopted into an upper-class family one can raise the question: why was not Baya sent to school? This mystery was resolved when I met Yoyo Maeght at the Maeght Gallery in Paris in January 1998. Yoyo told me that Baya worked as a servant for Marguerite. It is a reliable source, because Marguerite was Yoyo’s godmother.

Baya started making animals and human figures out of clay before joining Marguerite’s household. Marguerite was fascinated by Baya’s art, and introduced her to gouache and watercolors. Baya spent most of her time painting with colors. In 1947, sixteen-year-old Baya mounted her first solo exhibition which was arranged by Marguerite. The exhibition took place at the Galerie Adrien Maeght in Paris. Baya’s work was praised by the “pope of Surrealism,” André Breton: “And here, profiled on the fabric threads of the future’s virgin, the hieratic figure of Baya, lifting a corner of the veil, revealing what the young united, harmonious, and loving world could be... It is undeniable that her gear of wonders, ...secretly takes part in extracts of perfumes from Thousand and One Nights... Baya, whose mission is to recharge with meaning the beautiful nostalgic words: The Happy Arabia.” (4) Beyond the ostentatious “surrealist” essay of Breton on Baya, one can sense in his words the nostalgia for a certain Orient: not the actual existing Orient, but the imaginary, transformed by the eye of the Westerner, who can see only the “corner of the veil” lifted to reveal “The Happy Arabia,” and “fairy tales” filled with “extracts of perfumes” from “Thousand and One Nights” that haunted the Orientalist’s thought for a long time. Like Frida Kahlo, Baya Mahieddine was categorized as a surrealist artist, and her art was interpreted by the surrealists as a fantasy and fairy tale of unreal reality. They went as far as to include her name in the “General Dictionary of Surrealism and Its Surroundings.” (5)

At the time of her exhibit in Paris in 1947, there was a resurgent interest in non-European arts: paintings, masks, textiles, and ar-chitecture. After World War II and Nazism, Europe experienced a deep crisis of civilization felt most strongly by intellectuals and artists. These circles were searching for a universal dimension of expression, but not without some
attraction to the “exotic.” This was quite obvious in Breton’s essay on Baya’s exhibit: “there is far away from this old world so-called civilized, this world running out of breath, this dragon with a hundred dried up breasts, this knocked down moster whose scales are decomposing... races, castes were pitted against oneanother, and the dragon could not stop vomiting the carnage and the oppression.” (6) In addition to the national crisis of devastating war was the crisis of European colonialism and imperialism on a global scale, specifically the colonization of Algeria by France. I argue that French intellectual circles took a particular interest in Baya’s work not only because of their specific interest in non-European art, but also because she is an Algerian woman. Maybe there is some feeling of guilt that is tangled in her case. Yet, Baya was exoticized by Westerners and was not mainstreamed.

The misinterpretation of Baya’s art by Western and Arab art critics is another point that I would like to discuss here. Some Arab art critics echoed and followed Western interpretations of Baya’s art as surrealist. Algerian art critic Benamar Mediene writes “...she stands at the heart of surrealism,”(7) and Jordanian art critic Wijdan Ali notes that “Baya’s style, based on childhood dreams and imagination, incorporated naïve, surrealisticforms.” (8) The use of Western definitions and terminology by Arab art critics to interpret art production by Arab artists demonstrates the colonized minds and thinking in a Neo-colonial (9) period.

Other art critics classify Baya’s work as naïve art. Naïve art is defined as an art produced by self-taught artists who lack formal training. The popularity of Henri Rousseau as a naïve artist refutes this definition because he had some formal art training. We may need to redefine naïve art. Naïve painting may appear to be innocent and childlike, a deceptive perception because Western naïve artists borrow conventional composition and techniques from the history of art. Western modern artists’ interest in naïve art stems from their fascination with “primitive”(12) cultures and the unconscious states of mind. Naïve painting is a by-product of “individual psyches rather than communal history.”(13)

I argue that Baya’s artwork, like Frida Kahlo’s, expresses the richness of her own “native”(14)culture and art. Baya’s paintings express the world around her, as she sometimes admits.(15) She is grounded in an Arabo-Berber culture in Algeria. Algeria, a land of a multifold history, originally was inhabited by native Berbers, followed by a long history of invaders such as Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Ottomans, and French. A complex history of traditions is made of different influences: mystic and pagan, conventional and transgressive, puritanical and sensual. The themes and motifs of Baya’s native art are predominant in her paintings; their richly colorful and rhythmic patterns remind us of oriental carpets, traditional textiles, ceramics, gardens, and architecture. Baya’s art is very detailed, using fish, fruit, butterflies, birds, flowers, vases, musical instruments, women and children. Her forms are constant, and her expressions are repetitive with some variations from one painting to another. Her use of repetition is similar to that of Islamic art. Her husband, Hadj Mahieddine El Mahfoudh, a well-known Algerian musician, inspires musical instruments in her paintings. I see also similarities between her work and the tradition of mural paintings which adorn the houses in North Africa, usually painted by women there.

Baya’s depiction of human figures in her painting challenges the preconception of a Western onlooker, who assumes that images of human figures are forbidden in ‘Islamic art.’ (16) I argue that this is a false Western myth about ‘Islamic art.’ Since its beginning ‘Islamic art’ depicted human figures, including nudes, in the secular realm, yet in the religious domain human figures were forbidden. Many religions prohibited the depiction of human figures in their religious sanctuaries, but for some reason, this idea is correlated only with Islamic art and became stereotypical of all art production by Muslims. In my opinion, this myth came into existence in order to ostracize the Other, in this case Islam. Even the term ‘Islamic art’ was invented by nineteenth and twentieth century Western historians.(17) Western thought has replaced restrictive geographic or ethnic terms, which had been previously thought distinct, as “Turkish,” “Indian,” “Arab,” “Persian,” “Maghrib,” and so forth, with all-embracing homogeneous terms such as “Islamic” or “Muslim/Moslem.”(18) Islamic art, as a global term, encompasses hundreds of years and a geographical reach extending at different times from Spain to India and the Far East.

Between 1952 and 1967 Baya stopped painting. These years she spent bearing and raising children at Blida in Algeria. In 1967, she picked up her paintbrush and color again. She has exhibited her work in many solo and group exhibitions in her native country, Algeria, and in France. Removing Baya from her cultural traditions, and juxtaposing her work with the European modernists who took a particular interest in her work, provided not only a new manner of characterizing artistic modernism, but also illustrates that the ideal of a static East was an important component of a modernism traditionally characterized as an internal European creation. Why do we have to define and categorize artwork from non-Western cultures by imposing on them Western definitions and terminology? Baya rejects classifying her art as surrealist and/or as naïve art. She says it is Baya! Maybe we should call it Bayaism?! •

Note: I delivered this paper at the Women’s Caucus for Art session –“Crossing Borders, Mapping Boundaries; Exploring Issues of Culture and Context in Women’s Art,” at the College Art Association 86th annual conference in Toronto, Canada, 1998. I am grateful to all those who have made my research possible in Paris. In particular, Nadine Ghammache, whose support and invaluable help in translating some documents from French to English enabled me to write this paper. My thanks also to the faculty of the Art History Department at San Jose State University for their support and encouragement, and to San Jose State University for awarding me a travel grant that helped me do my research in Paris and deliver my paper in Toronto.

1. Benamar Mediene, “Algeria,” in Contemporary Art From the Islamic World, ed. Wijdan Ali (London: Scorpion
Publishing Ltd., 1989), 19.

2. Marguerite Benhoura was working as an archivist at the Muslim Bureau of Charities in Algeria.

3. Améziane Ferhani, “Interview de Baya,” Algérie Actualités, no. 852, 17 février 1982.

4. André Breton, “Baya,” catalogue d’exposition, coll. Derrière le Miroir, (Paris: Edition Adrien Maeght, 1947).

5. Jean de Maisonseul, “Baya L’enchanteresse” in Baya, a catalog on her exhibition at Cantine Museum, Marseille (Marseille: Impr. Municipale, 1982), 16.

6. Breton, “ Baya.”

7. Benamar Mediene, essay on art in Algeria, in Contemporary Art From the Islamic World, 19.

8. Wijdan Ali, “Modern Arab Art: An Overview” in Forces of Change: Artists of the Arab World, ed. Salwa Mikdadi Nashashibi et al. (Washington D.C.: The National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1994), a catalog for a traveling exhibition in the United States of Arab women artists, 92.

9. I use the term ‘Neo-colonial’ instead of ‘Post-colonial,’ because I consider the term ‘post-colonial’ problematic as an indicator to this period. In my opinion, colonialism did not end. Today, it conveys new forms and ways of Western imperialistic hegemony by monopolizing the global economy and knowledge, therefore I call it a Neo-colonial period.

10. Robert Atkins, Art Spoke: A Guide to Modern Ideas, Movements, and Buzzwords, 1848-1944 (New York: Abbeville Press Publishers, 1993), excerpt from the Surrealist manifesto, 203.

11. Atkins, Art Spoke, 203-4.

12. Using a term such as “primitive” implies a bipolar, adversely hierarchical relationship between “primitive” and “civilized.” Nevertheless, I use it because I want to address certain commonalities that arise from the impact of essentialized discourse within colonialist discussion. To convey my continued discomfort with the terminology, I awkwardly use this term in quotation marks in order to point it out and question is validity, but it does not mean that I agree with its use.

13. Atkins, Art Spoke, 144.

14. Words as “native” or “indigenous” create problematic categories, as I indicate further, the complex history of traditions in alteria blurs the original meaning of the word “native.” But this blend of multicultural tradition is very specific to Algeria’s own particular history; therefore we can categorize it as native Algerian culture.

15 In an interview by Lazhari Labter in Révolution Africaine, no. 1199, 20 février 1987, p.61, Baya replies to what do her paintings reflect: “My painting is not areflection of the outside world, but of my own world within me...” In another interview by Moulay B., she replies that her paintings come “from things that surround me, from music, ...from things in life...”

16. I use the term ‘Islamic Art’ in quotation marks in order to point it out and question its validity that will discuss further in my discussion.

17.Mohammad Al-Asad, “The Re-invention of Tradition: Neo-Islamic Architecture,” Proceedings of the XXVII International Congress of the History of Art (Berlin 1992).

18. Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom, The Art and Architecture of Islam: 1250-1800 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994), 303.

Sana` Makhoul is a gradute student in the Art History Department at San Jose State University. Her area of concentration is on images of women, in particular Arab women, in Western art.

Self-Inventory and The Other

Kateb Yacine

Kateb Yacine est né en 1929 à Constantine, dans l'Est de l'Algérie. Son père avait une double culture, française et musulmane. Après l'école coranique, il entre à l'école et au lycée français. Il a participé, lorsqu'il avait 15 ans (1945) à Sétif à la grande manifestation des musulmans qui protestent contre la situation inégale qui leur est faite. Kateb est alors arrêté et emprisonné quatre mois durant. Il ne peut reprendre ses études et se rend à Annaba, puis en France. De retour en Algérie, en 1948, il entre au quotidien Alger Républicain et y reste jusqu'en 1951. Il est alors docker, puis il revient en France où il exerce divers métiers, publie son premier roman et part à l'étranger (Italie, Tunisie, Belgique, Allemagne...). Ensuite, il poursuivra ses voyages avec les tournées de ses différents spectacles. Il est mort en 1989.

Bibliographie :

Nedjma, Edition du Seuil, Paris, 1956, Points roman, 1981.
Le cercle des représailles, Edition du Seuil, Paris, 1959.
Le Polygone étoilé, Edition du Seuil, Paris, 1966
L'homme aux sandales de caoutchouc, Edition du Seuil, Paris, 1970.
L'oeuvre en fragments, Edition Sindbad, 1986.
Théâtre en arabe dialectal algérien :
Mohammed prends ta valise, 1971.
Saout Ennisa, 1972.
La guerre de 2000 ans, 1974.
La Palestine trahie, 1972-1982.

Kateb Yacine (1929-1989)

Algerian novelist, poet, and playwright. Kateb wrote in French until the beginning of the 1970s, when he started to use in his théâtre de combat vernacular Arabic. Kateb's Nedjma (1956) was the first Maghribi novel to be instantly recognized as a classic, and has since acquired the status of national revolutionary novel.

Kateb Yacine was born in Condé-Smendou, near Constantine, into an old, highly literate family. His father was Kateb Mohamed and mother Kateb Jasmina. Kateb was raised on tales of Arab achievement as well as on the legends of the Algerian heroes. After attending a Qur'anic school, he entered the French-language school system. In 1945 Kateb's studies at the Collège de Sétif were interrupted by his arrest, following his participation in a nationalist demonstration in Setif. The demonstration had turned to rioting and massacre of thousands people by the police and the army. Kateb was imprisoned without trial and freed a few months later. While in prison, Kateb discovered his two great loves, revolution and the poetry. One of Kateb's best-known poems, 'La rose de Blida' (1963), was about his mother, who, believing him to have been killed during the demonstration, suffered a mental breakdown.

From 1947 Kateb began to visit regularly France until he settled there permanently. At the age of seventeen, Kateb published his first book, Soliloques (1946), a collection of poems. Like many of Algerian writers-Mouloud Feraoun, Assia Djebar, Tahar Djaout-he wrote in French instead of using Algerian Arabic. In 1948 he published a long poem, 'Nedjma ou le poème ou le couteau', in which the character of Nedjma, a mysterious spirit woman, appeared for the first time. Nedjma also is the name of his cousin, whom the author loved but could not properly court.

Nedjma chaque automne reparue
Non sans m'avoir arraché
Mes larmes et mon Khandjar
Nedjma chaque automne disparue.

Et moi, pâle et terrassé
De la douce ennemie
À jamais séparé:
Les silences de mes pères poètes
Et de ma mère folle
Les sévères regards;
Les pleurs de mes aïeules amazones
Ont enfoui dans ma poitrine
Un coeur de paysan sans terre
Ou de fauve mal abattu.

Bergères taciturnes
À vos chevilles désormais je veille
Avec les doux serpents de Sfahli: mon chant est parvenu!
Bergères taciturnes,
Dites qui vous a attristées
Dites qui vous a poursuives
Qui me sépare de Nedjma?
(from 'Keblout et Nerdjma')

From 1949 to 1951 Kateb worked as a journalist, principally for Alger Républicain. He travelled through Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Soviet Central Asia. For a time he was a dockworker, but from 1952 he devoted himself entirely to writing. In 1955 Kateb was forced to leave France due to his involvement in the Algerian nationalist struggle for independence.

Kateb's most famous work, Nedjma (1957), treats the quest for a restored Algeria in a mythic manner. Its modernist technique, use of multiple narrative voices and discontinuous chronology, has influenced Francophone North African literature and writers elsewhere in the Third World. Kateb himself has admitted that William Faulkner was the most important influence on his style of writing.

Nedjma, which incorporates local legends and popular religious beliefs, is set in Bône, Algeria, under French colonial rule. Owing to the fragmented style, the plot is difficult to follow. Nedjma, a name meaning "star" in Arabic", is a beautiful, married woman, who has uncertain past. She is loved by four revolutionaries, but she comes and goes like the seasons. "Nedjma chaque automne reparue / Non sans m'avoir arraché / Mes larmes et mon Khandjar / Nedjma chaque automne disparue." The more they discover about her, the less they really know. Nedjma never changes, but the other characters pass through all the ages of life. Nedjma, portrayed in an ethereal way, embodies the attachment of traditional Algerians to their clan. Critical attention has concentrated on the novel's unusual structure. The action is not chronological-the narration has similarities with the arabesques and geometric forms of Islamic art.

Kateb took up the themes of and figure Nedjma in many poems and plays. His first play was Le cadavre encerclé (prod. 1958), a drama of colonization and alienation filled with surrealist images. In the mythical expression of the Algerian tragedy, Nedjma represented all the values of Arabic civilization trampled upon by history. Le polygone étoilé (1966), Kateb's second major prose work, introduced several characters from Nedjma. As the author himself explained, everything he has done constitutes "a long single work, always in gestation."

Inspired by Aeschylus, Rimbaud, and Brecht, whom he met in Paris, Kateb decided to break away from lyrical tradition and create a more political theatre. Among Kateb's later works is the play L'Homme aux sandales de caoutchouc (1970, The Man in Rubber Sandals), in which the Vietnamise hero is Ho Chi Minh. In small roles are such characters as Mao Zedong, Chiang Kai-shek, Pierre Loti, and Marie-Antoinette. A series of vignettes highlights the military history of Vietnam and the plight of the transient Algerian labor force in Europe. Characters are presented face to face, the French opposite the Vietnamese, the Viet-Cong opposite the Americans. Brief sequences and spoken chorus alternate. The trial of an American Everyman, called Captain Supermac, occupies the last third of the play. Kateb had visited Vietnam during the war in 1967, when American troops fought with the South Vietnamese and bombed targets in the north. The play was simultaneously produced in Algiers and Lyon.

The open warfare against French rule ended in 1962 when Algerians, voting in a national referendum, approved independence and France recognized Algeria's sovereignty. Since the early 1970s Kateb lived in his native country. Several of his plays were produced in France and Algeria, where he led a popular theatre group. In a short play, Mohammed, prends ta valise (1971), Kateb wanted to show the class complicity that exists between the French bourgeoisie and the Algerian bourgeoisie. He had remarked that the revolutionary writer "must transmit a living message, placing the public at the heart of a theater that partakes of the neverending combat opposing the proletariat to the bourgeoisie." Kateb died on October 28, 1989, in Grenoble, France.

For further reading: The Politics and Aesthetics of Kateb Yacine: From Francophone Literature to Popular Theatre in Algeria and Outside by Kamal Salhi (1999); Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, vol. 2. ed. by Steven R. Serafin (1999); Bibliographie Kateb Yacine, ed. by Charles Bonn (1997); The Poetics of Kateb's Fiction by Bernard Aresu (1993); Kateb Yacine: "Nedjma" by Charles Bonn (1990); L'étoile d'araignée by Kristine Aurbakken (1986); "Nedjma" de Kateb Yacine by Marc Gontard (1985); World Authors 1975-1980, ed. by Vineta Colby (1985); Recherches sur la littérature maghrébine de langue française by Jacqueline Aresu (1982); Littérature maghrébine de langue française by J. Déjeux (1973); The French New Novel by L. Le Sage (1962) - For further information: Kateb Yacine (in French) - Genistrek i Algerie - Kateb Yacine, un résistant - Kateb Yacine - Amazigh Heritage - Note: The name "Kateb" means "writer" in Arabic. - Maghribi novel: Northern African novel. The genre is comparatively new to the Arab world. Algerians form the largest group of Maghribis writing in French. Moroccan postmodernist novelists, writing in Arabic, have paved way for experimental fiction. - Note: Kateb Yacine's birthdate in some sources: August 26, 1929.

Selected works:

  • Soliloques, 1946
  • Abdelkader et l'indépendance algérienne, 1948
  • La cadavre encerclé, 1955 (prod. 1958) - The Encircled Corpse
  • Nedjma, 1956 - (trans. by Richard Howard in 1961)
  • Le cercle des représailles, 1959 - The Circle of Reprisals (anthology of plays, includes La cadavre encerclé, Poudre d'intelligence, Les ancêrtres redoublent de férocité)
  • La femme sauvage, 1963 (play)
  • Le Polygone étoilé, 1966
  • Les ancêrtres redoublent de férocité, 1967 (play)
  • L'homme aux sandales de caoutchouc, 1970 - The Man with the Rubber Sandals (anthology of plays)
  • Mohammed prends ta valise, 1971 - Mohammed, Take Your Suitcase
  • Saout Ennisa, 1972
  • La guerre de 2000 ans, 1974 - The 2000-Year War
  • La Palestine trahie, 1972-1982
  • L'oeuvre en fragments, 1986
  • Le poète comme un boxeur: Entretiens, 1958-1989, 1994
  • Minuit passé de douze heures: écrits journalistiques, 1947-1989, 1999
  • Boucherie de espérance: Oeuvres théâtrales, 1999
  • L'Œuvre en fragments, 1999
  • Un théâtre en trois langues, 2003

Thursday, September 6, 2007

La musique châabi en grande pompe sur la scène mondiale

La musique châabi algéroise s'offre une entrée sur la scène internationale avec une mini-tournée européenne qui démarre cette semaine en France à Marseille, avant la sortie en octobre d'un album piloté par le chanteur britannique Damon Albarn et d'un film au printemps 2008.

Le premier concert a lieu jeudi au théâtre marseillais du Gymnase. Quarante de ses plus grands maîtres sont attendus - un nombre de musiciens jamais vu. Ce sera ensuite Paris le 29 septembre, Londres le 10 octobre, Berlin le 31 octobre et New York en 2008.

C'est une jeune algéro-irlandaise, Safinez Bousbia, qui est à l'origine de ce projet à plusieurs tiroirs, baptisé "El Gusto" - la bonne humeur dans le parler algérois.
Au cours d'une balade dans la Casbah il y a trois ans, la jeune femme fait la rencontre d'un musicien: Il lui parle tant et si bien de cette musique, née à la fin du 19e siècle et qui connut son heure de gloire dans les années 1940-1960, qu'elle décide de partir en quête des hommes qui l'ont façonnée mais que l'Histoire a séparés."Je voulais simplement les remettre en relation. Ensuite est née l'idée du film et de l'album", dit-elle.

Une aventure semblable à celle du Buena Vista Social Club de Cuba.
Les financeurs n'ont pas été faciles à convaincre: la plupart des musiciens ont plus de 70 ans. En revanche, Damon Albarn, leader des groupes Blur et Gorillaz, toujours en quête de nouvelles expériences, a rapidement donné son aval pour enregistrer ces "dinosaures".Le concert de Marseille a donné lieu à des retrouvailles émues entre les 33 musiciens arrivés d'Alger et ceux de Paris, qui s'étaient perdus de vue parfois depuis plus de 40 ans."Le plus grand plaisir, c'est de se revoir. Refaire de la musique ensemble, ce sera extraordinaire", dit Luc Cherki.

Ahmed Bernaoui, René Perez, Abdelkader Chercham, Maurice El Medioni... s'interpellent et se taquinent comme s'ils ne s'étaient jamais quittés. Tout à leur plaisir d'être là, ils ont oublié les années de disette où "certains vivaient dans la misère" à Alger, selon Safinez Bousbia.
Le comédien et musicien Robert Castel, venu rendre hommage à son père Lili Labassi, espère que cette expérience permettra au châabi de sortir du cercle des mélomanes.

En France, en 1998, le chanteur Rachid Taha avait popularisé "Ya Rayah", un titre sur l'exil de Dahmane El Arachi, l'un des autres grands maîtres de cette musique mort en 1980. "Mais cela n'a pas été suivi d'effet", regrette-t-il.
Pour cette musique qui chante l'amour, l'amitié, l'absence, la trahison, un orchestre traditionnel compte, outre le chanteur, une dizaine de musiciens - joueurs de mandole, violon, derbouka, tambourin, piano, voire aujourd'hui de synthé.

Le châabi - "populaire" en algérien - puise sa source dans le chant arabo-andalou, rapporté d'Espagne par les Maures mais jugé trop intellectuel par les petits pêcheurs, artisans et prostituées de la Casbah.
Reléguée au second rang ces dernières années par l'émergence du raï et du rap, cette musique n'a pas dit son dernier mot, affirme le chef d'orchestre d'El Gusto El Hadi Halo, fils de Hadj M'Hamed El Anka, qui en a posé les règles."Cette musique véhicule la culture algéroise qu'on ne peut dissocier de la vie quotidienne. Même si elle n'est pas très médiatisée, elle est présente dans tous les évènements: mariages, baptêmes, fêtes religieuses", dit-il. Pour lui, la relève, formée notamment sur les bancs du conservatoire d'Alger où il enseigne, est là.

Par hayet zitouni le 06/09/2007 à 09:16 in "Tout sur l'Algérie"