Chaabi magic

Chaabi is the name for the folk music of Algeria, which harks back to medieval days when many musicians came over to North Africa from Moorish Spain.

Chaabi is sometimes referred to as 'the people’s music'. Played in smoke-filled corners of the Casbah (see Algiers), it’s also called the 'blues of the Casbah'.

Unlike griot musicians and storytellers in other parts of Africa (see the link to Griot in Senegal), Chaabi players do not sing of the country’s social history. The folk songs tend to speak of personal themes such as love and loss.

These well-known traditional songs (which can go on for half an hour) are widely recognised by many Algerians (in the same way traditional hymns like ‘Jerusalem’ are known in Britain).

Younger audiences might prefer shorter and more modern types of music, such as the rap-style Rai or pop songs. But for formal occasions, such as weddings, Chaabi is still played and keeps the music heritage of Algeria alive.

Take a look at the video where Abderrezak Acheli plays some Chaabi music. Abderrezak is a famous musician and like many Chaabi players, he has passed down the tradition to his son.