Compilation 1970's Algerian Folk And Pop

Published on July 22nd, 2015 | by Hondo

0

1970s Algerian Folk And Pop

1970s Algerian Folk And Pop

A mate of mine recently bought Just Outside Of Town by Mandrill on the strength of the cover. Although Mandrill were from New York, he was convinced the cover was shot in Nairobi. I thought it had more of a Jo’Burg vibe. In the end, we were both wrong. It was shot right in the centre of LA. But, most importantly, the music was as funky as the freakily-dressed dudes on the cover.

I’ll put my hand up straight away and admit I’m a sucker for covers – especially something freaky and weird from 70’s and 80’s Africa. I took one look at the dude wearing white boots on the cover of the Strut compilation, Nigeria 70, and knew I’d love it.

That’s why the re-emergence of vinyl and the abundance of African reissues is such a boon. Especially when labels like Analog Africa and Soundways take such care with their covers.

So it should be no surprise then that I was irresistibly drawn to the cover of Sublime Frequencies’ compilation, 1970’s Algerian Folk And Pop.

The cover features one of those great photos that asks more questions than it answers. Who are this couple? Why are they holding on to each other so tightly?  And where can I get a leather jacket like the one the guy is wearing?

The cover features one of those great photos that asks more questions than it answers. Who are this couple? Why are they holding on to each other so tightly?  And where can I get a leather jacket like the one the guy is wearing?

I had figured that were one of the acts featured on the compilation, maybe Algeria’s answer to Sonny and Cher. But a little digging revealed that it was more intriguing than that. It was taken by Lazhar Mansouri, a local photographer in a small village near Aïn Beïda in Algeria.

Mansouri was no Annie Leibovitch or Rankin. He was just a guy who ran a tiny studio in the back of a barbershop in a nondescript town. Here the cost of a camera was prohibitive, so locals came to him when they had a special occasion or celebration to mark.

Between 1950 and 1980 Mansouri took over 100,000 portraits. When the negatives were uncovered they were immediately recognized as a commentary of the times. They reflected all strata of society – families, youth, tribes and the military – and the simple props chosen were revelatory too. There is rarely a smile. Getting your portrait taken was a moment to be taken seriously.

Chances are that the couple on the cover are announcing their relationship to a world perhaps not quite ready for their modern ways.

So, to the music on 1970s Algerian Folk and Pop. The album documents a key period of a nation in transition, where Western musical influences can be heard but are underpinned by an undeniable Algerian sense of sadness. It is a time of tolerance but where the dark clouds of a brutal civil war are gathering.

It would seem then that Mansouri’s portrait reflects the mood of the music perfectly.

Like I knew it would.




RELATED LINKS

Buy from Sublime Frequencies

A selection of Mansouri’s work is on permanent display at the Westwood gallery in New York.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


About the Author

My name is Peter Moore and I'm an author by trade. I’m not a purist. I’m not an expert. But I love all kinds of African music. If it moves me – or makes me want to move – I’ll write about it here.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑