The Algerian Mandole

Click on image for source

Click on image for source

All lovers of Algerian Chaabi music must know the Algerian mandole for this instrument is a must in any decent Chaabi performance. It is also used in Kabyle Chaabi or traditional music and in Andalusian music as well.

The Algerian mandole was created in 1930 by a luthier named Bélido after an order by and following the recommendations of Algerian Chaabi master El Hadj Mhamed El Anka. Now it can be found in 4, 5 or 6-course versions. The picture shows a 4-course version held by Algerian luthier Rachid Chaffa who made mandoles for some famous Algerian artists such as Guerrouabi, Amar Ezzahi, Boudjemaa El Ankis, Takfarinas and Maatoub Lounas.

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cherifaThis morning, as I checked the Algerian Radio website, I read the sad news of Cherifa’s death at the age of 86. I spoke in a previous post about how only death seemed to make us realise the dead was noteworthy, and I believe that I should have written about Cherifa earlier.

Cherifa-n-w-Akbou, whose real name was Ouardia Bouchemlal, wasn’t really from Akbou as many had thought; she was indeed born in the wilaya of Bordj Bou Arreridj and moved to Akbou only when she was a teenager. Her Wikipedia entry [Fr] says enough things which I don’t have to repeat here.

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Cheikh Larbi Bensari

Cheikh larbi bensariIt has been long since I last mentioned the Andalusian music on this blog, which is a shame as it is my preferred music style besides Algerian Chaabi.

Cheikh Larbi Bensari was born in Tlemcen between 1863 and 1872 and soon became the city’s style master.

He began his active life as an apprentice barber but soon switched to music and trained under Cheikh Boudhalfa’s control. He learned to play the violon, the mandolin, the gnibri and the rbeb; and sung several Andalusian styles such as the Gharnati, Hawzi, Sanaa and 3rubi. Apparently, he even sung in Kabyle. Continue reading

Azzedine Meddour

I was still a boy when my interest in History started. An Algerian TV program, called “Facts and Facts“, accompanied me during that period and I still have vivid memories of it.

This program was directed by Azzedine Meddour and presented by Mhamed Benguettaf. It was an unusual way of relating the major historical facts of the 20th century.

Azzedine Meddour was born on May 8th, 1947 in Sidi-Aich, Bejaia, and there he completed his primary and secondary schooling.
He studied French Literature at the university of Algiers and then went to Moscow to study cinematography in the oldest film school in the world, the VGIK. There he met and married Russian Erina in 1977. They had two daughters. Continue reading

Mohamed Racim

RacimOne of the reasons why I liked Orhan Pamuk‘s famous book My name is Red, which I mentioned here, was the fact its main characters were Ottoman miniaturists who viewed their art, philosophically, as the perfect art; and who competed with their Persian counterparts and European painters who practised a different art.

In Algeria, and perhaps in most parts of the world, we cannot think of the past century’s art of miniature without mentioning Mohamed Racim (Wiki [En], [Fr]), the father of Algerian miniature.

Mohamed Racim (born 24 June 1896, Algiers – died 30 March 1975, Elbiar, Algiers) was born into an artists family. Both his father and uncle owned a wood-carving and copper-working workshop in The Casbah. Mohamed and his (un)equally famous brother, Omar Racim, worked in the workshop and there they learn the bases of their art. Continue reading

Athmane Ariouat

Every time Algeria holds its local elections, a movie comes to my mind and probably to many of my compatriots’. I am speaking of Carnaval fi dechra (watch here) and its main character Makhlouf el Bombardi portrayed by Athmane Ariouat.

Athmane Ariouat was born in M’doukal, Batna. At the age of 10, his family moved to Algiers where he studied at the Conservatoire d’art dramatique d’Alger between 1969 and 1972. He also took Arabic theatre courses under Mustapha Kasdarli’s supervision. The rest of his biography can be found on Wikipedia (Ar, Fr) or in this video. Continue reading

Hanin Omar – حنين عمر

I first heard of Hanin Omar in 2007 in the “Princes of Poets” TV show. She is one of Algeria’s new generation poets, many of whom write in Arabic and some in French. She was born in Oran in 1984 (I am not very sure about the year) and, besides being a poet, she is a medical doctor.

In one of her interviews, she said that she started writing poetry at the age of 9 when she came across a poetry book, read one of Nizar Qabbani‘s poems and tried to copy him. She likes to call herself “the pupil of Nizar Qabbani”, while some do call her “words fairy” or “poetry Cinderella”. Don’t ask me why.

Besides the TV show I mentioned above, Continue reading


He is known as Rouiched (as in little Rachid, big Rachid being great Rachid Ksentini) but his real name was Ahmed Ayad. He was born in 1921 in El Casbah, Algiers. He left school at the age of 13 and started working. He sold vegetables and fruits among other jobs.

Mahmoud Stambouli discovered him and helped him get a small role in Abdelhamid Ababsa‘s “estardje3 ya assi” play, and the public liked one scene where Rouiched punched the judge. Continue reading

Wardia Hamitouche

Wardia HamitoucheVery little is known about the biography of the late Wardia (or Ouardia). It is a sad reflection of the indifference with which we treat our artists, and Wardia was a great artist. I don’t think there is a single Algerian face Wardia didn’t bring a smile to. Larger than life is what comes to mind when speaking of her, a genereous lady, with a great natural talent. When I was a kid, I used to call her Khalti Wardia (Auntie Wardia), I remember that initially, I found her very loud and the roles she acted in her movies seemed quite scandaleous to me. But I grew to be fond of her because I felt that she was simply spontaneous and authentic. Funny too, hilarious actually. Continue reading

Baya Mahieddine


Her real name is Fatma Haddad, she married Hadj Mahieddine El Mahfoudh, a well-known Algerian musician. She was born at Bordj el-Kiffan in Algiers on the 12th December 1931, to a poor family and she lost both her parents when she was five-year old. She was then looked after by her grand-mother. When Baya was ten, a French woman (Marguerite Caminat-Benhoura), who feld to Algeria to escape World War II, offered her a room in her house. Marguerite was working as an Continue reading