Kamel El Harrachi: Nouara

January 5, 2022

The Mirror Has Two Faces

Listening Post 332. Nouara is Algerian chaâbi at its best—11 evocative folk-blues songs of elusive love, nostalgia, hope and self-awareness, served in Kamel El Harrachi’s silky voice. Throughout his career the artist’s challenge has actually been his strength: Son of the pioneering singer-songwriter and chaâbi modernizer Dahmane El Harrachi, Kamel has built on his father’s monumental oeuvre, never viewing it as a shadow. His second album embraces this musical heritage, remodeled with sumptuous arrangements, and also features some of his own compositions. The overlap of father and son is striking: Not only physical and vocal resemblance but also the same French exile (separated by 40 years), the same primary audience of Algerian emigrés in cafés and taverns, the longing for home felt equally by artists and followers. Perhaps most poignant is that Kamel was only seven when his father died in a car accident; among his fondest memories is the two of them singing together at home, looking in the mirror, imagining they are performing together on television. Nouara begins with tributes to the places that anchor their music: Dahmane’s El Behdja (White City, video 1), in praise of Algiers, a soundtrack for scenes of the Casbah, where chaâbi was born; and Kamel’s Mahalak Nouara (How Beautiful You Are, video 2), describing Algeria’s blessings. Disappointment parades lightly in songs like Ya Nass El Hob (Love Has Killed Me, video 3) and Mensabni (To Be With You, video 4). And a dialogue comes to a cryptic end in Ya El Ghalet (Oh, You Guilty Man, video 5). Critics often observe with admiration that Kamel El Harrachi is more than worthy of his father’s legacy, but it seems entirely possible that when performing he’s focused less on being an heir and more on the cherished mirror image of singing with his first partner. Whatever forces are at play, Nouara is dazzling. (Kamiyad)

Note: Dahmane El Harrachi was born Abderrahmane Amrani in 1926. He adopted his stage name from El Harrach, the Algiers district where he grew up. Kamel Amrani, born in 1973, eventually followed his father’s example. On lyric and music credits, both are typically identified by their formal names.

Kamel El Harrachi: Nouara / كمال الحراشى: نوارة
Kamel Amrani: Lead vocals, mandole
Abdelnasser Haoua: Derbouka, backing vocals
Sidali Oudane: Banjo, backing vocals
Dhamel Bouzerar: Tar, backing vocals
Philippe Soriano: Double bass
Reda Bouriah: Piano, backing vocals
Farhat Bouallagui: Violins


El Behdja / White City
Lyrics: Abderrahmane Amrani, Missoum/Music: Abderrahmane Amrani 

(From the Arabic lyrics)
Algiers, oh white city, your magnificent beauty will forever last
And your position is invaluable.

I sent you a messenger,
Please answer me, oh dear capital city
Your natural parks are of all colors,

You are surrounded by the four seasons and by your beautiful desert.


Mahalak Nouara / How Beautiful You Are
Lyrics & music: Kamel Amrani

You are the most beautiful of flowers,
In the middle of the high mountains.
I keep on turning around, amazed by your beauty
You are beautiful and you make everything around you beautiful,
None is the same as you


Ya Nass El Hob / Love Has Killed Me
Lyrics & music: Abderrahmane Amrani

Oh people,
Love has killed me,
It has changed my heart and burnt me
And my luck has been defeated
Why has it forgotten me even though I was sincere?
How long have I tried to be patient?
But it wasn’t enough,
It turned its back on me
Why am I defeated
Locked in its prison even though I have committed no sin?


Mensabni / To Be With You
Lyrics & music: Kamel Amrani

I wish I was with you today,
To contemplate you like a flower
I dream of your beauty,
And my thoughts are with you
This is how love comes,
But love has tormented me


Ya El Ghalet / Oh, You Guilty Man
Lyrics & music: Abderrahmane Amrani

Oh you guilty man, I know your actions
May God guide you and lead your way
We have nothing to say to each other
Let me rest
I don’t need to listen to your words
You have nothing else to say,
Don’t add anything else.
Leave me be and go away,
May God guide you and lead your way



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