Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Cést Strange

Yet another odd little chapter in my strange life. I have been listening to this c.d. relentlessly for the past couple of months. It is by the Algerian violinist Djamel Ben Yelles, the most famous violinist of the Rai music genre. It only takes a few seconds of listening to realize this musician is very special. The sounds are brilliant and haunting, like nothing I have ever heard before in my life. Rai music became a major source of identity for the Algero-French community in the mid 80's. The C.D. is currently out of print but a few used copies can be found online. Needless to say I highly recommend it.
Okay, so what is so strange about that, you might ask. Monday I went out to see a movie. I had time to kill so I stopped at a major dept store near the theater just to window shop. I remembered this perfume that a friend of mine had gotten there several years ago. It was cold, I had walked a ways and was standing in a semi frozen daze staring at the perfume counter when a young man walked up and asked if I needed assistance. Normally, I would have mumbled no and wandered off, but I didn't this time. I told him what was on my mind and he started to show me a few things. We began conversing and he mentioned "home". Turns out he is Algero-French. If this weren't my life, I would ask what the chances of that happening are - but this kind of stuff happens to me all of the time. Its no longer even spooky to me - and I've almost come to expect it. We discussed Djamel BenYelles. I found out Djamel is pronounced Jamel and the young man made me promise to burn the c.d. and drop it off for him. He told me, "French people don't like Algerians. Its everywhere." I had kind picked up on this from watching so many French movies. But this comment peaked my curiosity. I looked up Algeria on line, a country I previously knew next to nothing about. I found out that when the the French invaded Algeria to colonize it they annihilated one third of the Algerian population. One Third. No wonder the music is so haunting.

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