University of Cambridge > > Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series > Lunchtime Seminar - Hearing and Seeing Music in Early Twentieth Century Algeria

Lunchtime Seminar - Hearing and Seeing Music in Early Twentieth Century Algeria

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The first three decades of the twentieth century were a time of significant importance and change in French-ruled colonial Algeria. A French politics that was increasingly shaped by anti-Semitism and European exceptionalism coincided with a growing desire among sections of Algerian society for self-determination, and ultimately liberation from the colonial regime.

Musically, this was a time in which European record companies made some of the first recordings of Algerian musics, and popular styles such as raï and chaabi began to emerge in urban cosmopolitan centres such as Constantine and Algiers. However, for most French citizens there was little opportunity to directly encounter Algerian musics and musicians prior to the Second World War. Their understanding of music in colonial Algeria was thus shaped by reports and images in the popular press, and, in particular, by the photographs that appeared on postcards and other visual media.

In this paper, I aim to explore the role that music played in shaping interactions and encounters across the Mediterranean, connecting Algeria and France. Drawing upon recordings and postcard images of music and musicians from the period, I ask how colonialism controlled and altered musical practices in Algeria at the time? Furthermore I interrogate why music and sound were so important to both the French colonial regime in North Africa and to ordinary Algerian citizens living under colonial rule.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series series.

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