The Nuba of Algiers


About twelve years ago, Beihdja Rahal emerged as one of the most promising voices of the san'a, the classical "nuba music" that the people of Algiers colloquially call "Andalusian", which constitutes one of the six major School of Arab-Andalusian music of the Maghreb.

It is surprising that this young woman, who chose to move to France in 1992, has had a career mostly in the Arab world where she is regularly applauded at the largest festivals from Tunis to Fez.

The art of of Beihdja Rahal is thus a return to an ancient singing tradition, while taking into account the constant transformation of this music over the course of its history.

Beihdja Rahal was born in 1962 in Algiers to a family in which the practice of Arab-Andalusian music was commonplace. She studied music with great masters, particularly, Mohammed Khaznadji and Abderrezzak Fakhardji. She learn the classical singing and to play the "kwitra", emblematic lute of the Algerian Andalusian orchestra. She studied with some of the most prestigious musical groups of Algiers, El Fakhradjia and Es-Sounddoussia.

Beihdja Rahal, innovate her approach to classical Algerian music and instead to be part of a symphony orchestra, she opted for solo singing and accompany by a small group of instrumentalists: the kwitra, lute 'ud, violin or viola, mandolin, flute nay, zither qanun, small tambourine, cymbalist tar and the "darbuka".

This instrumental formation brings the musicians more freedom and flexibility. The chamber ensemble magnifies the voice of the singer, highlighting its sensual warmth in the middle range, creating inspirational and emotive notes.


The Nuba of Algiers

The "nuba" is the core of the urban musical tradition of the maghreb and the most classical expression of Arab-Andalusian music, the origin of which goes back to Medieval Arab kingdom of the Spanish Peninsula: Al Andalus.

Arab-Andalusian music is characterised by a codified organisation of musical performance in the form of a vocal and instrumental suite, the "nuba", compose in a main melodic mode tab (plural tube), with rhythmic cycle that structure its development, the interpretation by a singer or a chorus, accompanied by a small instrumental ensemble, a body of poetry which is partly shared by the various schools (Libya, Tunisia, Algeria Constantine, Algiers, Tilimcen, Morocco), a philosophical and cosmogonic conception of the modal system inherited from the Greeks through Arab scholars, the corollary of which is the notion of modal feeling, reflecting in the listener as an almost a ecstatic rapture, or "tarab".

The "Nuba" of Algiers repertoire developed over the centuries though exclusively oral transmission from masters to disciples. Its was permanently transformed and reviewed. However, at the end of the 18th century we can find the first manuscripts. The masters (ma'am), began to classify the pieces of "nubas" and related genres. Nevertheless, the serious work to save this musical tradition began with foreign musicologists who came to Algiers at the end of the 19th century: E. Salvador-Daniel, Christianowitsh, Jules Rouanet, and others.

At the beginning of the 20th century the last ma'am, led by Mohamed Ben Ali Sfindja (1844-1908), definitively contribute with his musicological work to organise the texts, published and recorded in 1904.

The"nuba Zidan" is the seventh "nuba" of the repertoire in the classification of the modes, It was associated with the night according to the ancient cosmogonic belief connected to the tubu'. The version performing tonight by Beihdja Rahal is inspired in the tradition of Algiers ancient chants.


Note: All Algerian songs of the first part of the concert were written in the 14th century (B.C.). Second part music and song belong to the 1700's, premiered in 1800's.