Raï history

This article is also available in: Italiano

After speaking to Cheikha Rimitti, it seemed right to give you an overview of the Raï for the first time, also in light of the very heavy censorship that has always suffered in Algeria, his country of origin.

Fusion of styles

The raï was born in Algeria during the first decades of the twentieth century thanks to an increasingly massive urbanization of coastal cities. In these cities there are more and more people from different peoples and, to the traditional Algerian and Bedouin music, an increasing French and Spanish influence is added, which will give an ever greater turning point to these melodies. The origins of the raï are in fact to be found in the popular songs that were performed in inns and souks, performed both by artists of both sexes.

Some of the most famous raï artists

Unlike traditional songs, which were concerned with spreading the moral values of society, these publicly praised the joys of the flesh and the senses, which is why they have always been frowned upon by the most conservative strata of society. In 1954 the genre obtained the first significant exploit with Charrak Gattà by Cheikha Rimitti, a song that spread like wildfire throughout the country.


If under French rule the raï had experienced ever greater appreciation, things changed following the Algerian Revolution. The themes of this kind differed in fact from the revolutionary imagination, which had placed the emphasis on being “Arab and Muslim”, not really Raï themes. Under the presidents Ahmed Ben Bella and Houari Boumédienne there was a real censorship and until 1979 the music scene remained almost confined to Oran, a city that, thanks to its proximity to Morocco, became a real safe haven for

Cheb Hasni and Rachid Baba Ahmed

In 1979 Chadli Bendjeddad was elected president, the man who first tried to “legalize” the raï, while imposing increasingly stronger controls on the texts. In this period the genre will reach its peak of popularity, managing in 1986 to get the Oran festival funded by the government. Following the riots of 1988, however, the Algerian president will blame this music and its artists, giving way to growing religious tensions. Cheb Hasni was assassinated on September 29, 1994 and a few months later Rachid Baba-Ahmed, the greatest raï producer, would end the same. Since then more and more artists fled the country, resulting in a real diaspora of the genre, which, since then, will move permanently to France.

Tomorrow we will continue the review dedicated to Algeria with “The battle of Algiers” by Gillo Pontecorvo. Follow us on our facebook,YouTube and Instagram page, every like, sharing or support is welcome and helps us to dedicate ourselves more and more to our passion: telling the Middle Orient.

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