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World Music Matters

Fanfaraï lights up Paris

Audio 10:00
Fanfaraï in concert
Fanfaraï in concert DR

Fanfaraï is a 12-piece brass band with a 'let's party' philosophy, bringing Afro-Cuban, Salsa, Latin and jazz influences to a chaabi and gnawa repertoire. RFI caught up with musicians Samir Inal and Hervé le Bouche at a "between the two rounds of the election" concert at Studio de l'Ermitage in Paris.


Fanfarai goes back to 2005 and began as a street orchestra in the tradition of "Idbalen" or "Zernadjia" that animated rituals and feasts in Algeria from the beginning of the century till the 1970's.

"We started off just playing in the streets, doing carnivals," founder Samir Inal told RFI.

"Then we got to play in a few festivals, but we were still more or less treated as a street band. Then because we had a talented vocalist and violinist, we gradually got to play on stage."

Fanfarai plays at Studio de l'Ermitage, Paris
Fanfarai plays at Studio de l'Ermitage, Paris RFI/HIRD

They've now taken their energetic, eclectic sound to 17 countries all over the world.

"Our spirit is 'let’s party'," Inal continues. "We’re about sharing music with as many people as possible and mixing different styles of music. Algerian, north African is the basis of what do but then we mix it with reggae, salsa, jazz or rock."

"We do covers of well known Algerian songs, chaâbi classics like Ya Rayah by Dahmane El Harrachi, a song about immigration, but most of our songs are about love."

Their lead vocalist and gumbri player Abdelkader Tab also writes songs. One about his mother, a tribute to all mothers, gets a mighty enthusiastic welcome among the many Franco-Algerians in the audience.

The concert here at Studio de l'Ermitage is "between the two rounds" of the presidential election, a great chance to dance, cast your worries aside and escape divisive politics for a few hours.

"It’s a pleasure to listen again to these songs, sung by new artists who are trying to let’s say reinterpret the old heritage," says Ramouna from Algeria, now living in Paris.

"We are in need of such concert, because it’s our culture and we need to dance and forget about stress of life and politics."

"France is a mix of cultures," she continues. "African, European..  immigration is part of history and what I love in Paris, what I love in France, is this possibility to mix with people. Most of us cannot afford travelling but through these different opportunities to go to an African restaurant, to attend an Algerian concert, we are really lucky. And hopefully, we’re going to pray that it will continue."

While a few of Fanfarai's songs touch on Algeria's so called dark years in the 90s, their message is beyond politics. But they clearly champion cultural diversity.

"Just looking at the band, even without listening to the songs, you see we’re French and Algerian on stage, so the message is clear," says Inal.  "We’re a a social and racial mix. We work together, live together, it’s not about being on the right or left."

If far right nationalist Marine Le Pen were to become president it would undoubtedly impact the band, Inal continues.

"I think they’d privilege franco-French music, and as we mix north African music with other kinds, we’d be screwed," he laughs. "We’d have to go and play abroad. But there’d be no question of changing our music.. on the contrary!"

Fanfarai's latest album, Tani, is supported by RFI Talent. Their new album is due out later this year. Follow the band on Facebook

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