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Cheb Hasni

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The tragic murder of vocalist Cheb Hasni (born Hasni Chakroun) by members of a national terrorist unit had a profound effect on the evolution of rai, Algeria's popular dance music. According to Algerian writer Aziz Chouki, "(Hasni's) murder changed the texts. It transformed the rai scene into a protest movement." Strongly opposed by Algeria's oppressive military regime during the civil war that swept through the Middle Eastern country, Hasni's songs, which advocated open expression of love, had been previously banned by Algeria's national censorship board. A native of the northeastern Oran village of Gambetta, Hasni initially dreamed of stardom as a soccer player. He left school in hope of playing with Oran's soccer team. When he had difficulty making the team, he turned to music, singing at weddings and festivals with a group, Si Kada Nui. Performing at a wedding, Hasni was heard by the Naoui brothers, who hired him to ding at their cabaret, Guingette. A duet recorded with Cheba Zahounia, "Baraka," became a major hit in the summer of 1987. Hasni's subsequent hits included "You Are the Healer," "You Ask for Separation," "My Suffering Was Long," and "May God Help Me." Despite his problems with the Algerian government, Hasni achieved remarkable success. His debut album, Madenitch Net Ferkou, sold nearly a million copies in Paris and surrounding suburbs. Affectionately known as "the Julio Iglesias of Rai," Hasni is remembered for his ultra-light voice; sentimental lyrics; and affinity for lush, orchestrated, arrangements. He was returning home from a recording session when he was shot twice by someone he thought was a fan. ~ Craig Harris

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