Chaba Fadela & Cheb Sahraoui | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Chaba Fadela & Cheb Sahraoui


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Rai music is to Algeria what reggae is to Jamaica. It's an unholy mishmash of bubbling synthesizer bass lines, Arabic modal chanting, and dirty lyrics (about alcohol, fast cars, sexual frustration, etc), with an occasional pinch of Cuban conga drum or Chicago blues guitar thrown in for spice. Spokespeople for the straitlaced Algerian mainstream culture have denounced rai as jungle music for juvenile delinquents, and indeed it seems to be an explosive (and extremely danceable) Dionysian reaction against modern Islamic fundamentalism in North Africa. The husband-wife team of Chaba Fadela and Cheb Sahraoui is the first rai act to come to Chicago. Responsible for the 1985 North African monster hit "N'Sel Fik" (released in the U.S. last year as "You Are Mine")--a cut that boasts rhythm, melody, chord changes, and vocal performance strong enough to mark it as a classic of the proportions of "River Deep, Mountain High"--Fadela and Sahraoui sing love-hate duets that burn with yearning and exquisite toughness. They leave me awed not only at the fire in their art, but also at the rough beauty of the Arabic language itself. Tuesday, Cubby Bear, 1059 W. Addison; 327-1662 or 477-7469.

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