By Jamel Arfaoui for Magharebia in Tunis – 13/08/09
More than 9,000 fans of Algerian "King of Rai" Cheb Khaled flocked to the archaeological theatre in Carthage on Sunday (August 9th) to enjoy his most famous works, singing along into the night at the Carthage International Festival.
The theatre was filled to capacity hours before the start of the soirée. Many Algerian tourists – some carrying Algerian flags – came from vacation spots in Nabeul, Hammamet and Sousse to attend the concert.
"We seized this opportunity [to see Cheb Khaled] with the family on our vacation here in Tunisia," said one Algerian woman.
The singer opened with songs such as "Yaymina" and "Bakhtata" amidst the cheers and dances of the fans. The Algerian artist performed for two hours with his most beautiful songs, such as "Soghra" and "Sahib carabella".
Cheb Khaled celebrated the origins of rai in his song selection, singing in the musical tradition of Oran, the birthplace of the musical style.
"I'll sing from my old albums," the singer told reporters before the show. "I always want to meet with my Tunisian fans at the Carthage theatre."
Nevertheless, some fans were disappointed that they hadn't heard more recent work.
"I was waiting to hear new songs, but he just gave us his old songs with a different style and colour," said one fan, Amal.
Khaled Hadj Brahim, like rai itself, was born in Oran. Many critics and fans attribute the global spread of rai music to his talent and dynamism. He also made several notable additions to the style, such as the use of Western instruments like the harp, bass, and saxophone.
After his 1992 album – produced in Los Angeles – saw success in Europe, the song "Didi" became Cheb Khaled's trademark. A1996 collaboration with Jean-Jacques Goldman yielded the successful album "Sahra", spawning the international hit song "Aicha".
Media critic Mohammed Al Hadef told Magharebia, "Cheb Khaled is undoubtedly the king of rai. With his ability to renew, he was able to take rai music to higher levels and to keep its momentum."
Cheb Khaled concluded his soirée with a reference to the Maghreb Union, which he said was a demand among all the people of the region.
"I think that most of the citizens in the region dream about the Arab Maghreb Union. I'm one of them," he said. "I don't see any borders marked between the fans when I'm onstage, although there are different banners. Rather, I see one group of audiences carrying different banners."
"Moreover, the Arab Maghreb is the only Arab region that has the necessary conditions of union. Therefore, officials have to understand themselves, because we are not inferior to Europeans."