El Gusto of Algeria: the band's back together, after decades apart
August 11, 2013 6:58 PM   Subscribe

It all started with a mirror in the Casbah. Well, it re-started with that mirror, when Safinez Bousbia, who is of Algerian descent but had never visited the country, went to visit with a friend from Ireland. Bousbia commented on the artistry of a mirror. Mohamed Ferkioui, the shopkeeper and artist, told her that he also made music, but had lost contact with his former friends and band-mates, but he had so many memories and items from that past period of his life. As he showed them to Bousbia, she decided she wanted to get the band back together. Her short stay extended into a few years, and she documented the reunion of friends and the playing of a traditional Algerian music style called chaabi, which is a mix of North African polyrhythms, Andalusian classical music, jazz, flamenco and French cabaret. The result was El Gusto (auto-playing music).

Before the Algerian War for Independence (1954-62), Jews and Muslims lived in a more mixed society, as reflected both in the bands and chaabi style itself. Afterwords, most Algerian Jews, who had been granted French nationality in 1870, fled to France, and the Algerian government relocated some Muslim neighborhoods by force. Friendships (and bands) were torn apart.

Jump ahead to 2003, when Safinez Bousbia, who had been living in Ireland and pursuing a masters in architecture, went to visit Algeria with a friend. In the Casbah, she saw that mirror and started talking with Mohamed Ferkioui. After finding some members of Ferkioui's band, she wanted to document the process of reuniting friends and band-mates, which became a prolonged process.

The friends, now in their 70s and 80s, have reunited as El Gusto, and have put on performances at select locations around the world, and Bousbia has shown the documentary at festivals. The band has also released an album and the soundtrack to their documentary.

See and hear now, an interview with Bousbia and snippets from the film, El Gusto Orchestra of Algiers Live at Bercy - El Harrez, and a 52 minute televised performance.
posted by filthy light thief (5 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Here's more coverage of the documentary and recent US show at the Lincoln Center, from NPR, which set off my post in the first place.

Both albums are available legitimately online, but unfortunately, I haven't seen many legitimate sources for the film online besides the taunt of a 2DVD set on a French website, which Google auto-translations tell me, says the title is "Removed for sale, unavailable."
posted by filthy light thief at 7:54 PM on August 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Cool post, flt! Thanks!

That opening page at the website (view of Algiers skyline) brought back fond memories of visiting that lovely city, in 1980.

Listening to some of the music right now. Charming!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:02 PM on August 11, 2013

Also of note: Wikipedia currently states that there are two separate styles or types of chaabi, the Algerian chaabi and the Moroccan chaabi.

And as this is the 21st century, electro chaabi exists, courtesy of Cairo Liberation Front and brought to you by The Quietus.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:02 PM on August 11, 2013

Thanks, flapjax!

For those just digging into the music, as jackbrown pointed out in a prior thread, the songs can go on for a while and can take 5 minutes to really get going.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:05 PM on August 11, 2013

I was kinda hoping this was news of an English Beat/The Clash supergroup.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:15 PM on August 12, 2013

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