One of the greatest singers of rai, Cheb Aissa (born Ali-Sherif Benaissa) continues to set his ultra-light vocals and jovial persona to a mixture of traditional and modern urban melodies. Since scoring a major hit with his second cassette, Bela-Babi, in 1988, Aissa has continued to attract followers with his unique style of rai-trab, a tradition-based song based on improvisations and vocal modulations. A native of Saida, a small city 200 kilometers west of Oran, Aissa found his early inspiration in the singing of his mother and maternal grandmother, who performed for strictly female audiences. He performed for the first time, at one of these festivals, at the age of 12. Aissa launched his musical career while still in teens. Joining a local rai group, Farachete, in 1986, he began singing in art centers throughout Algeria. Moving to Oran, in 1988, he slept on a lawn for a month before getting a chance to sing in small cabarets. He released his debut cassette the following year. Moving to Marseilles in 1996, Aissa signed a recording contract with French label Blue Silver. His debut CD, Chira France, recorded in Oran and released in 1997, provided an entry to such top-ranked Parisian clubs as Café de la Danse. His second album, Nouara, followed in 1999. Aissa was aided, during his early career, by rai vocalist Cheb Mami.
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