Monday, April 13, 2009

Rai 'n' B

I found this vid through this article from The Fader. (Some of the youtube vids have been taken down, and none of the vids are official except the one I've reproduced above, but the music is great.)

Jace Clayton describes the song as follows:

One of the collection’s [Urban Rai 2008] most popular tracks is an omni-genre stormer called Un Gaou a Oran (A Fool in Oran), a collaboration between the Parisian rap crew 113, the Ivory Coast supergroup Magic System and the Algerian crooner Mohammed Lamine. It’s a fantastic, effortless collision of Euro-African styles. A West African guitar melody circles what sounds like a sped-up reggaeton beat, and the song ends up striking a perfect balance between coupé décalé (the popular Ivorian genre pioneered by African expats in Paris) and French club music. That’s “French” as in couscous and post-riot Parisian suburbs – not Serge Gainsbourg or quiche.

Un Gaou a Oran’s YouTube clip boasts over two million views. It’s a joyful pastiche that nods to Mahmoud Zemmouri’s French Muslim slapstick musical film 100% Arabica (whose leads, Cheb Mami and Khaled, each have a few tunes here) as well as the colour-saturated magical whimsy of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie. Whereas the latter’s version of Paris had no black people, the Un Gaou a Oran video is literally crowded with them – as is the song itself, which houses no fewer than four languages.

Listening to this song, a remix of a remix, provides the giddy experience of hearing discrete musical cultures accelerate together to a blur. The exuberant dance groove and torrent of styles are not about complete understanding (the quadrilingual music market ain’t what it used to be). Instead, it’s about creating a space of real, untranslatable difference – and finding shared comfort there. (Of course, it’s also about silly lyrics and physical humour.)

This is the same sort of space referred to by the title’s use of the word “urban”: a cosmopolitan space where foregrounded otherness doesn’t lead to exclusion. 113, Magic System, Lamine and their countless fans are moving beyond France’s cherished fraternité into al-ikhaa’ and badeya. True multiculturalism isn’t about fusion — that World Music buzzword of the Nineties. It’s about transforming cultural and sonic friction into useful heat.

This is from Clayton's review of two recent rai compilations, which sound essential, and which you must get hold of. I plan to.

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