The Best of Idir: Two Borders, One Dream

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From one of the primary anticipators of rai comes this greatest-hits compilation, covering his career from 1973 to the present. The music is steeped in the traditions of Algerian music, but adds much more to the original forms from which it was taken. The music in vogue prior to Idir was based almost entirely in Arabian aesthetics, full of violins. From Idir (and others) came the use of guitars, electric instruments, and, rather importantly, the electronic keyboards that became such an instrumental factor in the state of rai. Also added were the themes of political protest and social commentary (admittedly rather easier to do from Paris, making Idir's exile perhaps more useful musically than originally hoped by the authorities). The music ranges from the pensive to the energetic and dramatic, complete with screaming female choruses as necessary. It's an interesting fusion of sounds here as Idir and his group move through all the steps leading up to rai without quite hitting upon what's now generally taken to be the basis of the genre. The end result of this is a quite listenable disc, with some worthwhile history of Algerian music built in.

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