Tonight, Monday November 7th, I’ll be hosting a live radio broadcast of my WFMU show at South Williamsburg’s Spectacle Theater, followed by a screening of excellent musical comedy 100% Arabica, starring Khaled and Cheb Mami. Music/youtubery begins at 7:30, film at 9pm, showing up early is a good idea, especially if you want the homemade mint tea and dates… Full info + flyer here.

And then next Monday November 14th, Mudd Up radio returns to the WFMU studios with special guest Brian Degraw of Gang Gang Dance!!


It’s been awhile since I’ve posted MP3s on here. In honor of tonight’s live radio broadcast / rai special, here are 3 songs which may make there way into tonight’s setlist:


[audio: Ana Mazel.mp3]

Cheb Mami – Ana Mazel [Prince of Raï]



Hasna El Becharia – Rabi-Lik [Smaa Smaa]

not raï, simply an incredible Algerian musicans stepping inside gnawa and other traditions to great effect.


[audio: and Anthoy Ray Marvelous.mp3]

Lamine & Anthoy Ray – Marvelous

This one comes from the unlikely 2001 CD Big Men: Raï meets Reggae, which pairs talent like Gregory Isaacs, U Roy, and Chaka Demus and Pliers with Khaled, Warda, Fadela, and more.


Mzien! Next Monday November 7th, live radio & a great, rarely-screened film at a special location in South Williamsburg.

Join us at Brooklyn’s Spectacle Theater for a live broadcast of my WFMU radio show, “Mudd Up!” from 7:30-9pm, built around a YouTube selection, followed by a screening of the fantastic musical comedy, 100% Arabica. Set in the rough suburbs of Paris, this 1997 film by Algerian director Mahmoud Zemmouri stars raï kings Khaled and Cheb Mami. 100% Arabica uses satire and incredible live music scenes to tell the tale of an up-and-coming raï band that must deal with shady cops, cassette bootlegging kids, a conservative imam, and more.

Released just 2 years after Mathieu Kassovitz’s stark social drama Le Haine (Hate), 100% Arabica joyously offers alternatives to a narrow sociological exploration of urban tension by using the same location and same broad themes to celebrate Arab and African immigrant culture in Paris.

Homemade mint tea and dates will be served ’cause we’re nice like that.


Fafi en Mexico by GraffMX

[Fafi en Mexico by Fafi]

Young deaths, accidental deaths are always the worst. The graffiti above is by artist Fafi, wife of DJ Mehdi, who passed away on Tuesday when, during a party for a friend, the roof of his Paris home collapsed.

Most people in the States know Mehdi from his electro/disco/house, his association with Ed Banger records, the Daft Punk / Justice upswing. But he began in France’s hiphop scene, and that’s where I first discovered him.

DJ Mehdi

In DJ culture, certain songs exceed themselves, turn epic, turn anthem, crystallize a moment so well that whoever created the song becomes one to watch for – they enter in the conversation (often bypassing people who have been doing similar things — without the greater cultural resonance — for years). Because you can hear it, clearly, when music takes on zeitgeist weight, heavy with meaning.

“Tonton du Bled”, produced by Mehdi for Paris rap crew 113 is one such song.

If, like me, when you first heard it you had no idea what they were saying beyond a few snatches of words — it was DJ Mehdi’s beat that brought everything together, that made the whole articulation danceable and audible to us outside of the Afro- Arab- Francophone rap world. It’s a big tune.

“Tonton du Bled” was released in 1999, one year after Rachid Taha’s cover of Dahmane El Harrachi’s “Ya Rayah” became such a hit. “Ya Rayah” is the classic Algerian song of exile, a poetic and bittersweet cautionary tale about leaving your homeland (you’ll always want to come back), the restlessness of the traveler, the migrant worker (and the touring DJ). 113’s lyrics narrate a French-Algerian taking the car-and-ferry back to the ‘bled’ for a few weeks — with none of the Taha/El Harrachi longing. On the contrary, they are smart and hilarious in their reproach — using French slang peppered with Arabic words to playfully discuss the trip to Algeria, referencing Playstations, darboukas, librarian-sexy raï superstar Zahouania, all while gently riffing on urban/country differences without falling into easy dichotomies, not a drop of nostalgia in sight. If “Ya Rayah” invokes the split identity of someone who can’t shake longing for a distant home, 113 and Mehdi use hiphop swagger to express utter identitarian confidence – at ease in multiple languages, countries, Euro cities or African villages – empowered by the ability to travel (hiphop as portable homeland).


So the rap song offers a detailed reply to the raï one, and this black and brown intergenerational conversation is happening in France. It’s a rare and vibrant moment of a call-and-response conversational topic stretching across musical scenes.

And it put Mehdi on my radar. We never met but I’d always wanted to ask him about the transition from making beats for major players in the French rap scene to getting international traction as an electro DJ. It’s a fascinating move, probably a great way to think about changes in the French music scene over the past decade or so, too.

“Tonton du Bled” stayed in my crate for years. I actually became known for playing this track to Francophone audiences. An afterhours party on a Paris boat ended with the Moroccan manager giving me his copy of the 113 record it came on. The LP that was later destroyed when a drunk driver slammed into the tour van of Kid606 and myself outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, smashing the rear windows and sending my record bag onto the highway. But in that crash we were blessed: apart from a little whiplash and my best 80 records completely destroyed, nobody was hurt. We walked out of a totaled tour van alive. It was a hit-and-run. Who knows what that driver has done since.

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Here’s how I used “Tonton du Bled” in my 2004 mixtape, Bidoun Sessions, sliding in a spacious dancehall riddim underneath:

[audio: Rupture – 113 – Tonton DuBled + Craig Thompson – H+K Riddim.mp3]

DJ Rupture – Bidoun Session excerpt

Less than a week ago Mehdi released a free mix called Tunisian Summer, saying “Last but not least, this mix is, quite humbly, dedicated to the people of my ancestors country, TUNISIA, for obvious reasons.”

To close, here’s a lovely Tunisian song (with a hiphop beat).


Aliah Blaid Raked – Alahamra



I was going to post some music from my upcoming CIAfrica mixtape, but it’s late, I’ve got headphones in, and life gravity pulls me towards this contemplative acoustic stuff right now, so that’s what we get. Hawzi/chaabi from one of Algeria’s finest non-rai vocalists, Nadia Ben Youssef (French bio). :


Nadia Ben Youssef – Ya Baba L’Hnine

Hawzi functions like a bridge between classical Andalusian music and contemporary Algerian chaabi. A bridge. Between Africa and Europe there’s only a few miles of water — in instances like these a boat or residency permit is a bridge and a continent offers a life of movement, possibility. Or its opposite:

Here’s the trailer for friends’ documentary film on Punjabi immigrants suffering years of legal limbo in Ceuta (Spanish town inside Morocco), where they wait in the forest. Stranded in the Strait. Some of these men left their homes over four years ago. The independent filmmakers are looking for funding to complete the doc’s post-production this fall – you can help out here.

Stranded in the Strait- 6m Trailer.



[photo: Rex Features]

My latest article for The National can be viewed online here. I look back at the career of Rachid Taha.


To call him a rock star is to overlook his success in the Arab world as an innovative reinterpreter of rai and chaabi. To label him a pioneering figure in Arab-technopop is to forget the long shadow cast on him by The Clash and other spiky political rockers. And if he’s a rebel, then why all the lush, respectful cover versions from decades past?

Here’s the original version of ‘Ya Menfi’ (The Exiled / The Fugitive), performed by its author, Kabyle musician Akli Yahlatene: “The chains weigh tons. . . / The soup is mere water with cockroaches swimming in the dish.” Yahlatene sings about Algerians in France imprisoned, punished, or killed for their involvement in the Algerian War. Decolonization struggle words; you can think of ‘Ya Menfi’ as a musical counterpart to Franz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, of which Sarte said

…and Taha’s reverent take on ‘The Exiled’, from his 1998 album Diwan:



Ok, so Khaled isn’t the “Rebel of Raï” as this 2-CD set titles itself. Marketing-driven misnomers are rife; we don’t sweat it. Khaled is raï establishment, Khaled is raï king. And the Nascente CDs help explain why. Here as elsewhere, Khaled’s voice is honey, his performances nimble and generous. (For some raï context, check my 2008 piece in The National).

A survey of “the early years” (late 70s – early 90s), Rebel of Raï offers compelling evidence for the awesomeness of ’80s synths and drum machines. Nerdy listeners will enjoy the way various tunes reflect the production values of their times. There’s one glorious acoustic song from the 70s (“Trig Lycee”), and the electronic adaptations that came later, some propelled by brilliant slinky minimalism (“Hada Raikoum”): pitch-bent synthesizer, guitar snippets, Algerian rhythms inside the drum machine, voice. Here’s “Trig Lycee”, the only track on the compilation without a keyboard (cheesy or otherwise):

[audio:Khaled_Trig Lycee.mp3]

Khaled – Trig Lycee (buyable: Other has a nice writeup, Amazon)

Look at it this way: if you don’t mind fruity keyboard lines & occasional studio overproduction, just think of all the music out there that you can now enjoy. Khaled himself sounds great no matter what’s underneath his voice. And so suddenly a huge swath of musical food chain opens up. Another way of saying: If you really like a style of music, you love it, which means you follow it through thick (reverb) and thin. You stick with raï through the 80s and beyond, and you do not frown on Khaled’s 2009 pan-afro-euro-club jams with Magic System. Même pas fatigué…

There are people who stopped liking reggae when Sleng Teng hit (There are people, fewer of them, who began liking reggae when Sleng Teng hit). In fact, thinking about late 80s dancehall may help tunes like this work as a gateway drug to the wonderful world of pop raï. Khaled alongside Cheba Zahouania, a hugely influential powerhouse in her own right:

[audio:Khaled_Lila Ou N’Har (duet with Cheba Zahouania).mp3]

Khaled – Lila Ou N’Har (duet with Cheba Zahouania)

I was speaking with Cheikha Rabia in Paris earlier this year, and when I asked about her favorite singer, her face erupted into a smile – the child inside looking out, eyes aglow – “Khaled!” Rabia said. “Khaled! He’s the best”.

Before Khaled was Khaled he was Cheb Khaled, and before that, he was in a Nass el Ghiwane cover band. I would love to hear a young Khaled singing NeG, if the band (“The Five Stars”, I think) recorded any…

His website, descriptively titled Khaled Mania, contains a ‘nostalgia‘ section with mp3s & videos!



matoub lounes4

“We had to give up Berber and reject French. I said no! I played hooky in all my Arabic classes. Every class that I missed was an act of resistance, a slice of liberty conquered. My rejection was voluntary and purposeful.” – Matoub Lounès


Matoub Lounes – Attan Ne Mmi

Oud, percussion, lyrics in a language holding fire underneath its tongue. His life work, soaked in lethal politics. We can start the journey by saying: auto-tune-free Berber freedom music.

the metadata for this album ZIP includes a Matoub Lounes facebook page.


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Elsewhere, Mike Davis reminds us that the swine flu issue is not a problem based in Mexico City, but one flowing from places like Tar Heel, N.C. or Milford, Utah – agribiz USA corporate farms and their foreign outposts. “Capitalism and the Flu“.

Although the Mexicans were the first to make songs about it.




Cheb Mami as a carrier of modernity (thanks DJ E3!)


Cheb Mami & K-Maro – Nos Couleurs

I have tried – apparently not hard enough – to find a good source for new Arabic music in NYC. I miss raï! Sheesha bars in Bay Ridge? no problem. Egyptian kebab vendors who make me return to upper-midtown at odd hours to sell me CD-rs & then forget to bring them? Yes. Lemeni bodega owners in Chelsea who tell me all the good music is online, free!, and want to burn me some of it, if only Vista would let them? Sadly, yes. Dusty Lebanese-run cassette shops with Oum, Fairuz, and phonecards? of course. but rai? Not in my path. At least not yet. sigh.

I miss it extra now that crunk has raised/lowered the global synth game stakes! plus, autotune. Nobody autotunes harder than the north Africans.


Houari Manar feat Mafia De La Rue – Hya


thanks to everyone who came out for the west coast shows: team hug!

I learned something new on this trip: POWELL’S CITY OF BOOKS. large and independent — no, LARGEST — the largest indy used & new bookstore in the world… simply incredible. ( “rad” as the PDX folk like to say.)

if yr in Portland, I recommend the Atlas party. Find Ez & shout “more reggada!”


[Atlas crew: The Incredible Kid, Anjali, DJ E3]


Three continents in less than a week has left me burning the midnite oil, sipping yerba mate, and falling into deep R.E.M. sleep the moment I sit down in NYC’s shuddering metro system. Naturally, the blog suffers.

But you can expect a grip of print pieces from me in the near future: Fader, Frieze, repeat.

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We’re just trying to find the greatest next 3 minutes of your life” – a great Observer (Guardian) article on mp3 blogs, in which MuddUp! is featured!

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I’ve been wrapping my ears around lady ‘harp’ music from Peru. Especially Anita Santivañes, totally hypnotic even though it all kinda sounds the same, these intermodulating waves of complicated & repetitive string arrangements falling from cracks in the sky down to a world holding less love than it needs.

Here’s Anita Santivañes from Anita Santivañes vs Anita Santivañes. Guess who wins!

Anita Santiva̱es РBebi La Miel de Tus Labios

(heartbreak poetry encoded at 56 kbps, a MuddUp! low-fidelity record!)

anita santibañez

& because it is late-nite and late-nite allows for little if any organizational logic, here’s a scratchy old banjo-powered recording of Algerian chaabi great Dahmane El Harrachi that i picked up at the Barbes Fassiphone shop a few days ago, where Sonido Martines took great pleasure in watching the Parisian Arab girls in impeccable makeup make fun of my musical selections.

Dahmane El Harrachi – Khabi Serrak

Nettle covers this tune in fact; this is the first time i’ve heard a recording of it by its original composer.


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speaking of Sonido & cuuuumbia, He’s straight outta Bogota via BnsAires and ON TOUR IN EUROPE RIGHT NOW! AY AY AY! & he’s got some killer CD-r mixes with him… be sure to ask…



Complexe et diversifiée, la méditerranée laisse entrevoir histoires communes et singularités, entre mémoires et enjeux d’avenir.



Damien Tallard presents “Espadrille“, a streaming selection of North African music produced and issued on vinyl in Marseilles from 1950 through the 1970s.

Marseilles occupies a special place in my heart ever since i first stepped foot there (the view from the gare!). Partly because it is reminiscent of Barcelona with the horrible tourism aspects removed, partly because it is Maghrebi, partly because of the wonderful people I meet every time I go through, a unique fold in the map… Visiting there its difficult to recommend people specific places to go — Marseilles magic, for me, is non-obvious, not immediately visual, slow-moving and deep, in a sense it is like Madrid, another city capable of being user-unfriendly at first, which blossoms the more time you spend there.

big hugs to Amèlie @ Radio Grenouille in Marseilles for the tip, look for MuddUp! re-broadcasts there soon…

Tallard’s Espadrille post contains tantalizing info — a tangle of streets, a trio of labels, a distributor — that makes me want to learn more & some lovely, annotated album artwork scans.