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Music, Borders and Nationhood in Algeria

Music, Borders and Nationhood in Algeria

(p.162) Music, Borders and Nationhood in Algeria
Tony Langlois
Liverpool University Press

This chapter looks at the role of musical genres in the borderland between Oran in Western Algeria and Oujda in Eastern Morocco – in many ways a single cultural and economic zone that is distinct from the core of each of their respective nations. Once this had been the boundary of the Ottoman Empire, but at other times a refuge for political dissidents from either side in their many anti-colonial struggles. Today the cities are economically linked by smuggling and culturally by language, common tradition and strong musical connections – the raï pop music industry is strong on both sides of the border, but as important is the local form of ‘classical’ Andalous music tarab el gharnati and Berber ‘folk’ genres. Music itself marks boundaries of taste, heritage and allegiance, and these often have a tangential relationship to those demarcated by nationalist discourses. The chapter considers the ways in which musical practices preserve a sense of regional identity and allegiance despite the formal closure of the border in 1994. It looks at the economic and cultural consequences of this relationship and at the efforts of the Algerian government to maintain formal boundaries and address the broader context of cross-border cultural flow, not only with Morocco, but, increasingly, the wider mediated world.

Keywords:   Borders, Music, Berber musics, Raï, National identity

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