Saturday, April 27, 2013
Cheb Hasni + Cheba Zahouania | El Baraka
Pick it up here.
In the summer of 1987, after gigging at wedding parties and cabarets, Cheb Hasni, whose star was clearly on the rise, was given the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to record with Cheba Zahouania.
Zahouania had made a huge splash the year before recording "My Uncle, Oh, My Uncle" with Cheb Hamid, who along with Cheb Khaled and Cheb Mami, were modernizing Algerian rai and riding the last big wave of the cassette culture revolution sweeping in new generations of pop from North Africa to South Asia. Zahouania was, in a word, hot.
Hasni and Zahouania's duet, "El Baraka" ("Lady Luck"), did Z and Hamid's "Uncle" one better: its outrageous lyrics, bright-n-chunky rhythm guitar and Casio-tastic trills and fills wormed their way into the ears of over a million Algerian youth, ensuring a bright future for the pair as international superstars.
I have no idea how faithful this CD, which I almost certainly found at a now-closed Algerian bodega on Steinway Street in Astoria, is to the original cassette in terms of the track list. The recordings themselves sound stressed and occasionally cut out, or allow moments of overlay, as though whoever recorded this did so with the jack only tenuously plugged in. It was clearly digitized directly from cassette rather than any (no doubt long gone) master tapes.
Spotty though its quality may be at times, it is the only copy I have ever seen or heard of this history-making music.
Here's a translation of "El Baraka," for which a very kind reader, Mark, supplied the following:
We made love in a tumbledown shack
It was me who took her, the others can fuck off
When you’re drunk you get these ideas
When you’ve been drinking, you get these ideas
Tough luck for me but not for my friends
Leave me to my problems, I can’t stand any more
Tonight he’ll sleep at mine
Oh, you know this night won’t end
I’ll telephone her and she’ll come tomorrow
I want a real brown-skin girl, not a suntanned one
We get together nicely and we have a good time
There is but one God and the passion keeps growing
Tonight we’ll drink at mine
Tough luck for me, but for her, she was sent by fate
I won’t get over her, I’m burnt and she’s made up her mind
Have pity on me, I'm shattered
We stayed up all night and we’re dead, get a car to fetch us
I picked her up in Gambetta and it’s none of your business
Have pity on me if I say too much and I’m wrong
We’re drunk, bring a boat to get us away
We got drunk or else forgotten
I’m with the people I like
Drunk we fell down, get a car to fetch us
We’re noble and free and we’re// good company
And eloquence is found among people of wisdom
Listen to a Hasni and Zahouania sing this legendary duet: