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The jeel of Cairo

Why did the Algerian raï conquer our ears, while we remain unwilling in the merry Egyptian jeel ?

Fed by traditional rhythms, it seduces nevertheless 100 million young people in the Middle East. At the end of the 80s. The first discs of raï begin to pass shyly on some French radios. We discover a multitude of curious melodies, very different from all that we are in the habit of listening. These ancestral tones are so underestimated in Europe where they appear "new". Notably this famous quarter of tone characteristic of the musical practices and the cultures middle oriantal, incredible under our latitudes. The voices are sunny, drawling, overflowing with vital energy ; the songs, virtuoso, terribly exotic. But the rhythmic, often in 6-8, are difficult for the European ear.
They are going to be "cleaned" by western producers, "normalized" in 4-4 to be made acceptable by the consumer. So disinfected, the rhythms raï become pleasant and easy to dance.

In 1992, "Didi" released by Khaled marks the explosion of the raï in France. A pronounced commercial bend, important means, like Californian production, result does not keep waiting any more : the discs of raï are sold with a vengeance, radios and TVs follow close. Khaled is the first North African to force the doors of the Top 50. It is quite a small cultural revolution.

Europe, until then unwilling in these tones, opens big in the Arabic monotonous chants. Although the analysis of the events reveals a more moderate evolution. To tell the truth, Europe opens only in the raï, the Algerian pop. Somewhere else in the Arabic world, in the Lebanon notably, but especially in Egypt, the other modern musics were born, which fire the youth of the Middle East. But the Europeans know about it nothing. Curiously, the raï seems to have skipped by a narrow cultural lane in the waterproof walls. Its cousins will never reach our banks.

Of Morocco, Tunisia, Libya or Syria, only the traditional recordings reach up to the tubs of our record dealers. But no modern popular musics. Notably, Europe passes next to the jeel of Cairo. No word, no subject, no line in the European press. Nothing. We have this unpublished talent, this predisposition to darken a piece of the reality, to ignore the current events of our neighbours, our culture of tomorrow. When the raï turns in the variety "marketée" closely, it's time to discover the jeel !

Parodied in Beirut and in Oran, pirated in Turkey and in Tunisia, spreading out through most of the countries of the Bay to the Yemen, the Egyptian jeel became one of the major references of the Arabic dawn of the world. From Cairo to Alexandria, of Ismaïla in Port Said, young Egypt has the ear tightened towards the jeel (the Egyptian pronounce " guiil ", "generation" in Arabic, implied short story). It is the ground swell which shakes the Middle East. Of the Atlantic Ocean in the Persian Gulf, 100 million young people listen to the jeel today. The Jewish youth came itself there. The answer of a generation The jeel, it is the current Egyptian popular variety. Been born on the banks of the Nile at the beginning of the 80s, it is from feet to nose of the new generation in the learned music of the parents and of fundamentalist bearded. Impertinent, joyful, boaster, electric, the new Egyptian wave is born in the nightclubs of Cairo, outside the official circuits, and wants to break with the clear-cut academicism of the Egyptian song. Produced without big means in the African metropolis, the jeel mixes the Arabic traditional influences in the classifications dance western. It crosses rhythms nubiens, bédouins and Egyptian of the South, fed in the traditional melodies and in the vibrato in the Arabic voices, in the trio of modern instruments : synthesizer, bass and percussions. Of a distressing musical poverty, the jeel is the administration of the raw sounds, drawn from the memories of the cheap Japanese synthés, tinkered in knocks of drum machines. But it is also a balance of a coolness and an incomparable tonic effect. The jeel is irresistible, smiling, artless, sometimes moving, often funny and openly charming. It reinvents the standards of the pop, short and effective fragments. Songs approach subjects taboos in the country of the Pharaohs : dredge, sex, religion and politics, via a secret language appreciated by the youth.

The production of jeel is today considerable, at the same moment in cassettes and CD. Without counting the hacking. Some albums reach the tubs of our record dealers. Amr Diab, 17 albums, native of Port Said, the superstar of the Arabic world, accumulate discs of platinum and colossal hits. A compilation grouping together the best titles of its last three albums has just gone out in France (Emi Arabia / Virgin). Hakim, the green glance, "Elvis of Egypt" at the top of the pyramid jeel, aims obviously at a public Westerner. Son of the mayor of a small village of Average Egypt, he refers to the shâabi, the popular music of humble disdained by the elites of Cairo, for whom the jeel amounts to some electronic turpitude. New compilation at Blue Silver. Hanan, Madonna of Cairo, sensual and moving, in the devastating charm and to glamour, bucking up and good child - included local dress handkerchief. The taxis of Cairo as the convoies crossing the Sinai vibrate in the sound of the beautiful. Testahel (Slam! Sonar / Blue Silver). But if the voices of the jeel are numerous (Ihab Tawfik, Moustafa Amar, Namek, Alaa A. Khalek, Samira Saïd, Mohamed. Fouad most available on the excellent label cairote Slam! Sonar / Blue Silver or to the Club of the Arabic disc).

The invention of the genre returns - unique phenomenon - to an individual : Hamid Al Sha' eri, prolific composer, skillful arranger, singer of a remarkable sweetness and acute dreamer. 38-year-old, born in Benghazi, Libya, of an Egyptian father and a Libyan mother, he mixes very early reggae and berouali, the rhythm of his native region. He dares to modernize the bédouines rhythmic and their typings of characteristic hands. Insatiable artist, he is the main manufacturer of jee l: He composed not less than half-thousand songs and writes hundred of titles.

Sciences & Avenir N° 626