Ya Raï

05/04/2022Outre-National Records Presents Three-Volume Compilation Of Rare Tracks By Algerian Legend Cheb Hasni

Raït here, raït now, we are sipping on some mint tea and rejoicing in the wavy, lo-fi, synth-tastic tape sounds of iconic Algerian singer Cheb Hasni. Born Hasni Chakroun in 1968, he is widely considered one of the greatest vocalists of the raï genre, although his burgeoning career was brought to a sudden end at the age of 26, when he was tragically murdered outside his parents' home in Oran.

Hasni's career was nonetheless prolific: After releasing his first cassette in 1986 he went on to record roughly 150 cassettes and become known as the 'king of love raï.' Besides chronicling sentimental matters of the heart, however, he also did not shy away from taboos by approaching controversial topics such as divorce, adultery or alcohol in his songs.

"Raï is the music of a youth hungover from Algeria's recent independence. It became a space for a liberated, transgressive dialogue that told the social truths of its time - an up-front yet poetic voice that covers the taboos and frustrations of daily life, expressing emotion without detour. This voice is heard at weddings, cabarets, in the nightclubs of the Oranese coast, and casually on the street." 

Naturally, the audio cassette boom fueled the rapid popular ascent of the genre, as it gained widespread acclaim across the Maghreb region and beyond. Now, almost thirty years after Cheb Hasni's untimely passing, France-based imprint Outre-National Records has released a three-volume retrospective tribute compilation of rare cassette tracks from the Oriental Music Production label.

Compiled by Cheb Gero (Akuphone), the Cheb Hasni collection Volume 1, 2 and 3 is impossible to pass up, due in part to the striking artwork by Maitre Selecto. But more than anything, it serves as an impressive document of a legacy cut short, led by Hasni's powerfully wistful voice, impassioned delivery and undeniable talent to convey emotion.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom