Saturday, March 31, 2018

Power to the diverse people


The sleeve essay for Algerian Berber musician Houria Aïchi's new album Chants mystiques d'Algérie explains how "There's a word that Houria Aïchi tends to use frequently as she discusses her latest album: 'people'. However it's neither a political ploy nor the stance of a coyly learned musician. Indeed, her singing belongs very much to people..." My 2013 post about Houria Aïchi was headlined Where has all the diversity gone?. Five years later little has changed: we don't talk about people: we talk about female or male, Christian or Muslim, Western or Eastern, all viewed through the distorting prism of click bait.

It is not insignificant that my header photo of Houria Aïchi appeared on the website of the 2017 Festival Voix de Femmes [Festival of Women's Voices] in Liège, Belgium. The recently announced equality pledge by the BBC Proms, the Aldeburgh Festival and other high profile Western music festivals is much needed. But it is by no means the only game in town. Although judging by the media coverage you would think it was, and we haven't even had the media feeding frenzy of the 2018 Proms launch. Have you ever seen a mention by the cultural commentators of the Liège Festival Voix de Femmes? Have you ever seen a mention of Houria Aïchi? Have you ever seen a report of her brave concertising during the Algerian civil war which was precipitated by religious extremism? Where has all the diversity gone? And talking of diversity: as they say elsewhere, if you like the 1971 album Brian Jones Presents the Pan Pipes at Joujouka you will like Houria Aïchi' equally demiurgic Chants mystiques d'Algérie.




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