Lhe city of Oran is the cradle of raï, this music of celebration, challenge and pleasure which electrified local melodies at the dawn of the 1980s. Born in the cabarets of the port city, raï spread on the support of the time, the audio cassette, with a soon dazzling success among Algerian youth.
A producer born in 1954, Boualem Benhaoua, who came from the household appliance industry but was passionate about this popular culture, quickly distinguished himself from his competitors, who were often more interested in quick profits than in the discovery of lasting talent. He cultivates his network, encourages and advises chebs and the chebas, literally the “young people”, men and women, who will become the stars of this new musical genre. It was Cheb Khaled who led Benhaoua to rename his Maghreb Musique label to Disco Maghreb.
From the Golden Age to the Dark Decade
Located in the heart of Oran, Disco Maghreb stands out as the flagship label of raï, with a giant cassette suspended as a sign. Boualem Benhaoua collaborates of course with Cheb Khaled, distinguished in 1985 at the raï festival in Oran. He helps to reveal other young artists, called to a brilliant career, such as Cheb Hasni, nicknamed the “nightingale of raï”, even “Julio l’Oranais”, or Cheb Mami, baptized the “prince of raï” by his fans. . He also accompanies Cheba Zahouania, whose more traditional training brings a new touch to the raï repertoire. In many respects, the influence of Boualem Benhaoua can only be compared to that of Rachid Baba-Ahmed, singer and composer of raï (in particular for the couple Cheba Fadela and Cheb Sahraoui) before becoming a producer himself, with a store very close to Disco Maghreb. This is the golden age of raï in Oran, where all dreams are allowed, against a backdrop of provocative texts and captivating rhythms.
In January 1992, a military coup overthrew President Chadli Bendjedid, who was ready to coexist with the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), winner of the first round of legislative elections. Not only is the ballot suspended sine die, but the repression falls on the FIS, which reinforces the hard-line approach of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), opposed to the very principle of elections. It is the beginning of the “black decade” and its litany of abject violence. The extremists have never hidden their deep hostility towards this “immoral” music that raï would be in their eyes. In September 1994, Cheb Hasni was assassinated with two bullets to the head in the heart of Oran. Four and a half months later, it was Rachid Baba-Ahmed’s turn to be killed in front of his store. Boualem Benhaoua keeps a low profile, but keeps his Disco Maghreb afloat, against all odds.
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