Includes six-page booklet; includes download code. Delving into the deepest recesses of raï, this compilation serves as a tribute to its roaring years, but also as a rejuvenation of the genre in its sulphureous, subterranean version. It seemed like a good idea to dig into nearly untraceable cassettes, thus confirming it’s in the oldest of Oranese pots that the very best of raï is to be found. Just 50 years ago, no one would have believed even a bit in a genre seemingly bound to forever turn round and round in its native Oran, laying low in one of its many coastal road clubs. In these underground venues, singers — backed up by a minimalist orchestration for lack of space — would move their audience to laughs and tears, sobbing in a beer or chuckling down (dry) whisky. Through the pre- and post-independence years, from 1950 to 1970, raï urbanized itself, with a generation growing up between asphalt and concrete to the sound of traditional flute, but also and mostly listening to twist, French variété and rock music. Their names were Boutaïba S’ghir, Messaoud Bellemou, Groupe El Azhar, Younès Benfissa, or Zergui, and they passed on their collection of songs to the incoming “Chebs” — breathing a second youth into them. Oran, the capital of West-Algeria, will be at the heart of this rejuvenation. Overshadowed to the West by the bare mountain of Aïdour, a foot set onto a beautiful bay and the other on a long dried out wadi, covered up with buildings since, Oran must be the most European of Algerian towns — regardless of its kasbah, its sanctuary built in 1793 under the reign of the Bey Mohammed ben Othman and devoted to Sidi El Houari, the city’s patron saint, and praised in many a raï song, and its Pacha 18th century mosque built in memory of the displaced Spaniards of 1492. Oran is blessed with the sea and pine forests all around and above it, towards Sana Cruz. It is rich with Hispanic, Andalusian, Turkish, Arab-Berber and French influences. A cosmopolitanism is very much part of the city’s largely jovial nature. Some head for the open-air theater, renamed Cheb Hasni in honor of the creator of love raï, killed on September the 29th, 1994. Others take over restaurants before taking it all out on the dancefloor of one of the many clubs dotted along the coastal road. Features Cheb Hindi, Houari Benchenet, Chab Mohamed Sghir, Chaba Fadila, Cheb Tahar, Cheb Djalal, Benchenet, Cheb Kader, Chab Hamouda, Cheb Khaled “Schir”, Nordine Staïfi, Chaba Amel, Chaba Malika Meddah, and Tchier Abdelgani.