What does musical taste tell us?


There are many works treating of music and its relationship with social class, age, gender, race and several other dimensions. Somebody’s musical tastes give some interesting hints on who they are.

I don’t know if such studies have been carried in Algeria and I hope they have because, I am sure, there is a lot to learn about Algerians from the music they like. I am not aware of which music today’s young Algerians like, and I reckon you’ll a lot of hip-hop and its likes. Amateurs must forgive my ignorance of these not-my-cup-of-tea styles. I will therefore write a few words on what my friends used to listen to during high school years and how their tastes related to their social and cultural conditions.

Let’s start with the obvious.

There was this group of comrades who listened to Kabyle singers and to nothing else. Whenever you approach one you’ll hear him humming Matoub or Ait-Menguellet’s songs. They played the guitar or the mandolin, and they had long curly hair and Ait Menguellet’s beard. At some occasions, they listened to Arabic songs but only when the singer is Kabyle (Boudjemaa El Ankis, Kamel Messaoudi, Cheikh Hasnaoui, etc.) They supported the FFS and the MCB, and they felt it was their duty to unnerve the second group.

The second group was not very big. They were all scouts but not from FLN-related sections. They were close to Irshad and Islah and they listened exclusively to Anasheed. I remember I borrowed many of their tapes. It was new to me, most Munshidin were Middle-Eastern and sang about Palestine. I still recall one title “thuwwar” and another one, a marriage nasheed, with a chorus that goes like “ana sa3id, ana sa3id, etc.” (meaning “I am happy”).

Some other comrades, considered as more mature, split into two groups. One listened to Chaabi and the other to Oriental music. They used to argue on who was the best between Cheikh Amar Ezzahi and Mohamed Abdelwahab. I never understood how they could listen to those lengthy songs of Oum Kalthoum without falling asleep. They used to say that I would become like them in a few years. Many many years later, I still cannot listen to Oriental music, besides Fairuz that is, probably because mazalni sghir.

One group, of one or two, was special. Its members listened to bands such as Nirvana, AC/DC, Guns N’Roses or Dire Straits. They were rich, watched French TV, and were like they were living abroad. They spoke in French and were members of some rock band. Now I realise they were copies of those teenagers one can see in American high school TV shows.

The last group was the biggest in size. Its members listened to everything but mostly to Rai music. The group was divided into two major subgroups: those with big hearts and overwhelming feelings (lol) and these listened to Hasni, and the rest who listened to Khaled, Mami, Raina Rai, etc.

Now I wonder to which group I belong. I guess I’ll just create a new one and invite you all to join me. The below’s song fan group is born!

I realise the blatant generalisations I am making but hey it’s not a social analysis.

13 thoughts on “What does musical taste tell us?

  1. I liked this post. This is only me sharing my point of view, right. But i think nowadays, young people in Algeria are so exposed to foreign culture and still very attached to our identity that we’re ultimately responsive to different musical types. I mean even the algerian music is kind of diverse now. Gnawa for instance, extensively loved and pretty popular in young audience is a mix of different musical genres. Yes, we do listen to hip hop, Rai, house (pas moi en tout cas), rock and pop music. Sticking to one genre makes you miss some very interesting experiences i guess. Anyway, i have to say, when i listen to lyrics in arabic, it gives me shivers automatically.

  2. The above video shows blatantly that FLN has once more found and bought talent using peoples money! I prefer Cheikha Rimitti! LOL

    • There’s another video of Mazouni singing for another party so I am not sure the FLN had anything to do with this singer’s great work🙂
      I just remembered his Saddam song LOL

  3. I was about to comment seriously on the social meaning of musical taste when I watched the video….
    Ya mnarvi ya khouya, qtaltni bhadik la vidéo… C’est bon, j’ai rien à rajouter

    • I became a fan now QatKhal, wonderful songs on Youtube. He’s got talent🙂

      I would like to hear your say on the topic. So please try to forget Mazouni and do comment!

      • Ce que je voulais écrire n’était pas tellement sérieux en fait. Il était à propos de l’usage quasi-exclusivement funéraire qui est fait de la musique classique chez nous🙂

        Plus sérieusement, au delà des goûts musicaux répandus dans la société algérienne, ce qui est le plus marquant à mon avis, c’est ce que les uns pensent des autres non pas en critiquant la musique en elle-même (par exemple le côté supposé soporifique des chansons d’Oum Kalthoum🙂 ) mais la catégorie sociale dans laquelle un goût musical range les personnes. “Echbareg” qui écoutent le rai s’opposent aux “Papiches” qui écoutent le hard-rock, les deux se démarquent des “Madamates” (même de sexe masculin) qui écoutent les crooners orientaux actuels… A la frontière des deux premiers, il y a ceux qui écoutent le rap algérien alliant la culture locale à un mode d’expression occidental. Enfin, séparés de tous les autres, il y a les ikhwa et leurs anachids dépourvus d’instruments.

        Tout ce beau monde adopte, les tenus vestimentaires, les coupes de cheveux qui vont avec leurs goûts musicaux… et surtout dénoncent les autres soit comme occidentalisés, ringards, arabisés ou islamistes. Moi je trouve que c’est plutôt bon signe d’avoir une telle diversité.

        • Je ne comprends toujours pas pourquoi les radios algeriennes ont diffuse de la musique classique lors des 8 jours de deuil pour Benbella.

          Je crois faire partie de ceux qui traitent les categories que tu as citees de ce que tu as dit. Certains combinent en plus, el madamates chbareg… Allah yahfedhna!
          Et Oum Kalthoum, il faudrait que je sois mort pour que je puisse l’ecouter… Tiens une idee de nouvelle musique funeraire!

  4. I had tears coming down my eyes when I heard Almazouni sing. So powerful, both the melody and the lyrics. I wasn not sure about voting; but now, I will not only vote, but I know who to vote for. I am glad you did not upload the video of the other time-defying song preaching to the masses to vote for FIS and Number Six. He is so good and so convincing, I would have been at a loss as who to vote for. You spared me the confusion!

    As to the very serious topic about music, class and the arty-farty stuff, I don’t think only rich people listened to Western music. I used to listen to some horrible French music, Roch Voisine, Phil Collins, and Milli Vanilli. Nothing core shaking… I used to also watch 90210 with 5 or six female friends every Monday afternoon. I was in middle school then. In high school it was Ace of Base and Middle Eastern Music. In the mid nineties, our compasses started to change direction…

    • Glad I’ve been of some help!

      Sinon I didn’t say only rich people listened to Western music. I was referring to a few people from the “upper” class and who listened to hard rock (and not any Western music).
      And I forgot to say that my post was about Algerian males. I feel females were (are) less sectarian on this topic, and you illustrated it above🙂 I still remember Roch Voisine’s “Helene” as my sisters listened to it relatively often.

      I never heard of 90210 but you reminded me of Milli Vanilli. It’s funny they only had 2 songs and it appeared they weren’t the actual singers LOL.

  5. Pingback: Une page de culture « Blog du Chatnoir

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