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Going Far Away [DJ Lecture] 

[Intro Music: Khalouni Nebki (Let Me Cry) by Cheb Hasni, 1989]

The first time I travelled, I realized that one day I would try to settle in a foreign country. Being a foreigner could be a fetish. To get lost in the streets. Being lost causes curiosity, as if you could create a new memory, or replace your memory with a new one. Cities are like languages, it takes practice for you to become fluent in their streets, and their people. Each city has its own vocabulary and rhythm. Every city is a text. A text that can be epic or dramatic or elegiac or satirical. When you become fluent in your city, you try to learn another city, to travel to another language. When I feel that I need to travel or to move to another place, I listen to songs; songs have different dialects, accents and languages that I am not familiar with. My ears catch many words, while my mind recognizes only some. Later I understood that dialects are a particular form of language. Dialects are a rhythm of knowledge: knowledge transmitted into sound. Sound is an epistemic tool through which to conceive the core of words. Songs are poems; poems are the arrangements of words to construct lyrics. I prefer the Andalusian term Melhun, a short word formed from five letters, and it describes the operation of melodizing words.

[Khalouni Nebki (Let Me Cry) by Cheb Hasni, 1989]

Since I was 16 years old, I have listened to different genres of music; most of them were North African, and among them was rai. Rai, considered to be a genre of Algerian folk music, came from the traditions of different Algerian cities, including Oran. Rai is an Arabic word with a range of meanings, including: a way of seeing, an opinion, advice, aim or judgment. I was fascinated by this genre of music. I had no clear or particular reason why. I was like any other consumer of music, following what the new releases were, and digging into their history. Rai singers recite their rhyming verses by switching from one tongue to another in a single sentence, including Arabic, French, Amazigh, and English. It was difficult to understand. I had a passion for putting in the effort to get to the meaning, to get to the feeling. Through these short verses, I noticed that these songs discuss some serious issues.

[Bladi (My Home) by K-Rhyme Le Roi & Cheb Khaled, 1999]

El Assima el ghalia,

nassek mahi hania

Dear capital, your inhabitants

no longer have peace

A rayi kifah trouhi men akli ou galbi bkit ya

You are always in my heart

Ya rayi nrouh wenji, ou

manensash houmti ya

I leave, and I come back,

but I will never forget you

The distance from Cairo to Algiers is more than 3000 km. But through songs, I realized that a lot of everyday things are common, and there are plenty of common questions and common gestures. Through sounds, I combined images to create a portrait of someone I don’t know. I know that he looks like me, as if he were my alter ego, or the alter ego of someone like me or someone I try to imitate. All I can recognize is that the portrait is an image of a renegade.

Since 2013, I’ve been interested in collecting renegades’ biographies; for four years, I collected stories about the illegal characters of the past, the present and the future. While I was collecting those biographies, I formed my own criteria for what makes a renegade. For example, I only picked the characters who crossed the sea.

You have to cross the sea to become a renegade, you have to abandon the soil. In songs, a lot of rovers have crossed the sea to meet their lovers. I consider those rovers renegades.

[Bayda Mon Amour (Blonde Girl, My Love) by Cheb Hasni, 1989]

El baïda mon amour

Oh my blonde ‘ la blonde est mon amour’

El baïda mon amour w ana nabghiha bla sohor o yaa

She’s mine without charm

Samhi lya zarga

Excuse me brunette

Samhi lya zarga o maak malgit fayda w yaha

My life with you is useless

Zarga adowti

ya mandirhash hbibti wya

The brunette, my enemy, I would never love her

W lidar zarga fed el aam dar

problème w ya

What she made this year! Was a real problem

The lyrics of rai in general and Cheb Hasni’s lyrics in particular, provide a socio-political perspective of postcolonial Algeria. In most rai lyrics, the narrative functions as an allegory. Love, migration, eroticism, are notions that have a fixed relation in the context of rai. And what interests me is how the lyrics become a statement rather than a reaction; they become geographical rhetoric. The presence of mountains, the sea, cities and a heavy load of tradition has had a crucial role in grabbing the listener’s attention. Cheb Hasni and his lyrics compose an apparent dichotomy: resistance versus integration, tradition versus white modernity. He is not invoking tradition or even history; his references of time and circumstance are rather literal. In a very pragmatic attitude, Cheb Hasni’s lyrics have no memory; the lyrics attempt to avoid any nostalgic gesture.

[Hiroshima Mon Amour, video]

In Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) by Alain Resnais, the failure of modernity is expressed through the white woman. Love, war, suffering and forgetfulness are elements that reflect the woman’s relationship to the historically abused city of Hiroshima. A city, a woman and a man are the elements that compose this non-linear story.

[Intro: Nouar (Light) by Cheikha Rimitti, 2000]

I read an article about this young girl. While singing in a bar one night, she ordered another drink, uttering in French: Rimitti. Someone overheard her and made a comment, and since then she became known as Cheikha Rimitti or “give me another drink.” Cheikha Rimitti. Her lyrics are transgressive, bawdy and feminist; she is generally acknowledged to be the mother of rai. In the context of my quest, Cheikha Rimitti’s biography is history, and I am not intending to search for the history of rai. I think of the lyrics as a reference, a reference that can be used as a tool to understand the complexity of the relationship between the artist and his political conditions. Song/lyrics are textual forms, words combined, targeting particular audiences, telling them stories; these narratives carry cultural details that feed certain notions to the audience, and the accumulation of these narratives contributes to the human heritage. Song/lyrics are the products of a particular time and socio- political circumstances, loaded with epistemic questions and concerns. Songs/lyrics, like books or any other textual form, play the role of reference for the researcher. I use lyrics to produce speech, to illustrate speech. Lyrics are an image. An image that screams, an image that has a sound; a sound illustrated to replace an image.

[Nouar (Light) by ] Cheikha Rimitti, 2000]

Ana w ghzaili ya lala

Me and my suitor

Ana w ghzayli fi jbèle

nlaguète fi Nouar

Ay wila

Me and my suitor on the top of the mountain, are picking the light

In my studio, I often listen to songs. I don’t listen to music as entertainment; my choice has architectural motives. My studio is 4m x 4m in size; songs help to extend the studio space. Songs help to extend the studio space into mountains, sea coasts and yellow deserts. Mountains withdraw, and frontier cities rise at the horizon. The other coast is a city, and in this city there is a ghetto and a child is carrying heavy bags.

Calling for his uncle ...

His uncle, Karim

Has a dream to go beyond the mountains

And other places and names and things appear ...

Home, soccer team, cars, port, boat, drum, Nike shoes, TVs, CDs, Playstations, money and Michael Jackson.

[Tonton du Bled (Uncle from the Land) by 113 & Rim’K, 1999]

Hey, uncle
The bags are too heavy

Go on, get in Bilal

Get in Moulay Othmane Come on, let’s go, let’s go

Uncle Karim is going back home

For all the Kabylie [Berbers] Daughters/sons of my country

I wanted to stay in the ghetto But my father said to me
No no no

In that case
I’ll take all my friends No no no

So in one week’s time
I’ll go back to Vitry supermarket No no no

I’ll go end my life over there Yeah yeah yeah

Rai and rap meet in the diaspora. Both are discourses, both music productions. Rap singers were mostly from the 90s, a new generation of singers and members of a hip-hop culture. The meeting point is the diaspora, the cultural diaspora, and forms of migrant music. It’s as though a third generation, positioned at a distance from history, is now digesting tradition and maneuvering modernity. It’s as if we are facing a generation that has decided to move beyond the historicism of the colonial era, and become wrapped up in contemporary issues, which for them, are more urgent.

Rai decided to survive by integrating with rap; while rap utilized rai as a reference to preserve its surface as something of a non-western production.

[Parisien Du Nord (Northern Parisian) by Cheb Mami ft. K Mel, 1999]

Comme ça, vous m’avez trahi

Like that, I felt betrayed

Comme ça

like that

Hakada dertouha blya hakda

This is how you tricked me. This is how

Hakda l’aabtouh blya hakda

Because of my appearance you

Ala wejhi n’kartouni ou étranger
Kouni hasseb di bladi nua

h’naya n’mount

Did not accept me, you called me a stranger I felt I was in my own country and that I would die here

Mon choutèkouni walit gh’rib

lawali lahbib

I saw you, and I became a foreigner, no parents or relatives

Pourtant zaid h’na had c’chi h’ram

Knowing that I grew up here, this thing you do against me is shameful

Parisien du Nord, clando d’abord
Un titre dans la musique, sans passeport

I am a Parisian from North Africa, first of all, clandestine
My title is music, without a passport

[Sahra (Desert) by Cheb Khaled, 1996]

Sahra blad ramla,

Sahra blad etemra

A desert, land of sand, Desert land of dates

Sobri sobri ya layli

ta yefarraj Rabbi

Be patient, be patient Until the Lord relieves us

Although in the country where I live, more than 60% of the total land area is desert, I still like to observe deserts in other countries and lands.

The first time I saw a desert was in Pakistan, the Balochistan desert, as a tourist. The vast yellow landscape and lack of foreground forms was fascinating.

But this massive iron thing was more interesting than the desert. My English didn’t help me to call this thing a boat, a ship, a cargo or whatever this giant is called.

At the Gadani ship-breaking yard, I had many conversations with laborers about how ships dysfunction and expire.

We discussed how we can’t imagine being inside this thing, and if it’s even possible to cross such a sea. We were sure that it was impossible, even if just in our imaginations, because while it’s not possible to cross the Indian Ocean, or the Arabian Sea, the Mediterranean is effortless to cross. All you need is a small boat, a ferry or what in Algeria, they call the Babour. This is what I noticed through listening to rai songs: the ferry has its own lovers, who flirt with her, flirt with the ferry or flirt with the Babour.

[Intro: Partir Loin (Going Far Away) by 113 ft. Taliani, 2005]

Ouais gros!

Hey brother!

Elle est où Joséphine!

Where is Joséphine!

Allez laissez moi de toi!

Go and leave me alone!

Ah bon c’est comme ça!

Ah good, so it’s like that!

Ma taayinich

Don’t annoy me

113 Taliani!

113 Taliani

C’est bon!

It’s enough!

I wondered: Who is Josephine?

Who is Josephine who is mentioned at the beginning of the song?

Yal babour ya mon amour

Oh my beloved boat

Kharejni mel la misère

Get me out of this misery

Fi bladi rani mahgoure

I’m ignored in my country

Eyit eyit tout j’en ai marre

I’m tired, and it’s enough

Ma nratich l’occasion

I wouldn’t miss this chance

Fideli sa fait longtemps

I’m thinking of it for a long time

Hada nessetni qui je suis

She makes me forget who I’m

Nkhdem aliha jour et nuit

Night and day working for this

In 2004, Cheb Taliani left Paris, telling his girlfriend:

Josephine Josephine

ma derti fiya

Josephine, Josephine, what have you done to me?

Aatini soualhi ou nakaouti

nrouh el darna ou ya

Give me back my passport, so I can go back to my home

Roumiya roumiya ma derti fiya

Oh French girl, oh French girl, what have you done to me?

Aatini kabti ou nekouti nrouh

el darna ou ya

Give me my baggages so I can go back to my home