Blog February 13, 2020
Bounce Into '80s Maghreb Tape Culture from Lyons

Bongo Joe and Sofa Records have put together a compilation of tunes that originally circulated through the Algerian and wider North African immigrant community in Lyons, France, from the mid-'80s to '90s. The album doesn't drop until March 27, but they sent over the first single from it and it's just as compelling and funky as you'd hope.

Cassettes were a bit of a mixed blessing for the world of African and diasporic music. On the one hand, tape swapping and piracy is the main culprit behind Decca, Philips and other major labels giving up on recording and releasing on the continent. In its heyday, pirated cassette versions of albums were making it to the market before the official releases. On the other hand, cassettes were also much easier to make on your own—they could be recorded, dubbed and distributed by just about anyone.

Eastern Algerian immigrants had been on the music scene in Lyons since the 1950s, but once we reach the era outlined on the Maghreb K7 Club: Synth Raï, Chaoui & Staiif 1985-1997 compilation, a few important stylistic shifts were in full swing. The scene and immigrant community had grown to include artists from across North Africa, and the synthesizer revolution was fully underway. With cheaper multitracking recording and electronic instruments, even traditional musical forms like rai were getting a sort of electronic update. People were drawing from new influences, like the New Age pioneer (from Lyons) Jean-Michel Jarre.

The single, “Zine Ezzinet,” is by one such innovator. Nordine Staifi was born near the eastern Algerian city of Sétif but spent most of his life in France. In 1978 his disco version of the traditional song “El Ghorba S'hiba” was a watershed moment in modernizing Algerian music, and you can hear the innovation continuing in the funk guitar and melding of synth lines on “Zine Ezzinet.”

Digital and physical preorders are available via the labels' Bandcamp page.

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