KHALED is an Algerian singer better know as the “King of RAI”. It's a statement that's beyond doubt or question. With his unforgettable voice and huge smile, Khaled is rai. He helped transform the raw music in his native Algeria, and then went on to make it a part of the global music scene. And with 10 diamond, platinum, and gold albums, as well as the highest-selling Arab album in history (123 Soleils), he's the star all other rai singers aspire to be.
Khaled was born in 1960 in Oran, Algeria, the home of rai, and he was singing on the streets of the city with his first group, the Five Stars, by the time he was 10. At 14 he'd graduated to the more lucrative circuit of wedding and circumcision ceremonies (the only places, outside nightclubs, where rai was acceptable). While singing at a wedding, he was heard by a producer who took the teenager into a studio to record his first song, "Trigue Lycee." Full of youthful exuberance about skipping classes and watching girls, it became a smash, offering a fresh young perspective of the kind that had never been heard before in Algeria.
By the mid-?70s Cheb (or Kid) Khaled had already become a star in Algeria, his rai cassettes immensely popular with a young generation. Rai translates literally as ?opinion,' and Khaled's opinions reflected those of his contemporaries, many of whom desired more social freedom. His forthright attitudes to women, alcohol, and life, upset the conservative establishment in Algeria, and Khaled ? like other artists who followed his lead ? received no airplay on radio or television. His rhythms and words were simply too erotic and dangerous to be sanctioned.
Rai has origins in Bedouin oral traditions, in the music of Berbers who moved from the Algerian mountains to the cities of Oran and Algiers, and in Andalusian music that came to North African ports after the Moors were thrown out of Spain in 1492. By the 1930s, these elements had coalesced in a style called wahrani championed by cheikhas?female singers?in the bars of Algeria's "Little Paris," the coastal city of Oran. Cheikhas like the great Cheikha Rimitti voiced the complaints of working class people in French colonial Algeria, upsetting officials. They also sang openly about sex, upsetting conservatives. It wasn't the music of polite society, and it stayed for the most part in the tawdry cabarets and clubs.But there was no stopping the rai movement. The terms cheb and chebba--young man and young woman--put an informal spin on the more dignified musical honorifics cheikh and cheikha of wahrani music.
This was the sound Khaled came to. It was acoustic and heavily percussive, sweetened by the accordion, an instrument brought to Algeria by the French colonizers. The music, as befitted its lyrics, was rough and ragged. But it was changing, and Khaled was part of the vanguard that altered rai forever.
Khaled might not have been heard on radio or TV, but he wasn't about to let opposition stop him from becoming a major figure. The real turning point came when he teamed with the visionary producer Rachid Baba Ahmed in the early ?80s. Ahmed was the modernizer of rai, bringing in Western instruments, such as bass, synthesizers, and drum machines, and completely transforming the music.
He worked with a new generation of singers, including Khaled and the diva Cheba Fadela, and the results were nothing less than a revolution. Together they electrified rai, creating the genre that became known as ?pop rai,' and Khaled became the music's glittering idol in his homeland.
In 1985, Khaled helped organized the first Festival of Rai in Algeria, a huge success that legitimized the music so often treated with contempt. But shortly after, in part to escape the escalating violence in Algeria, and also to let his music develop, he moved to France. There his career truly began to blossom, although it took several years of work and development, and several cassette releases before he was truly ready for the international scene. In 1992, Khaled soared still higher with N'ssi N'ssi (co-produced by Don Was), which mixed his glorious rai with thick funk and rock to cross him into the French mainstream. The song "Didi" (originally released on 1991's Khaled) became the first rai hit in France, and broke the genre onto the world music scene.
It was the first step, albeit a giant one. What Khaled needed was to build on that, and cement his stature and popularity. That came fully with 1996's with the release of Sahra (an album named for his daughter). It established him as a major international star, while the single "Aicha" on the album produced by Jean Jacques Goldman became the biggest hit of the year in France. The album took Khaled's music to another level. Not only did he refine the framework he'd built, he also traveled to Jamaica to record with reggae musicians (including Bob Marley's backing singers, the I-Threes, and members of the Wailers), with a crossover that worked perfectly, as two rebel musicians who came together as one.
If anyone still had doubts that Khaled was truly the King of Rai, proof positive came in 1998 with 1,2,3 Soleils . The landmark sell-out concert in Paris ? the first major event with an all-Algerian bill - featured Khaled, along with Rachid Taha and Faudel, performing career hits. Khaled effortlessly stole the show with his charismatic presence and remarkable singing voice, quite obviously reveling in the delight of the packed audience. It was a show that established his majesty and stature beyond question. His command of the crowd was absolute, his assurance total ? Khaled was regal. The question was, how could he follow that?
The answer came in 2000, with Kenza (named for his other daughter). It pushed the boundaries of Khaled's music even further. Rich Egyptian strings, arranged by Steve Hillage, merged with booming, pulsing American funk as Khaled leaped into the new Millennium on his most fulfilled album to date, continuing a magnificent artistic progression. Not only did he show he was still at the top of his vocal game, he also roared his creativity as an artist, staying ahead of the pack.
In the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, Khaled became the first Arab artist to headline a U.S. tour, breaking attendance records throughout the U.S. in February 2002. Currently he is preparing & rehearsing his new band for the much awaited debut, and release of his new album on Universal France out in late 2004 in Europe And the new US Version due out in Late June 2005- with a re-release of this version in Europe in August. This will feature the reunion of Khaled with the Grammy award winning producer DON WAS on the song YA RAI.
In May of last year 2004 the two performed together for the first time since recording Khaled's hit single Didi, in Rome, Italy. Together Don Was & Khaled performed live a new rendition for Quincy Jones's historic concert "We Are the Future". The song will be part of the compilation CD and a Live DVD to be released throughout the world all the proceeds, to support children of war torn areas.
Khaled returned to the America in December of 2004 for a special guest performance at the GRAMMY JAM 2004 in Los Angles, Ca. He joined a cast of celebrity artists honoring the great musical legends Earth Wind and Fire, performing Brazilian Rhymes into DIDI showing how there music crossed the world, fusing with his North African style.
Khaled also stayed in Los Angeles to work on the new tracks, and remixes of his new American rendition of his latest album,YA RAYI which will feature a newly re-tracked, rearranged, interpretation of the title song YA RAYI, and two brand new tracks with Santana on Guitar, and guest vocalist Elan Attias, entitled Love to the People, One which Khaled sings in English and the second in English and Arabic, produced by multi Grammy award winning producers KC Porter and renowned Arab/North African music producer Dawn Elder.
Khaled, "this is a dream come true to work with Santana, my friend and brother". Additionally the album has been completely re-done with new edited versions, a few tracks featuring new arrangements, re-sequenced and the entire album re- mastered to create superior audio perfection by executive producer of the US version Dawn Elder.
Khaled is the winner of the BBC RADIO3 World MUSIC AWARDS 2004, 2005. And now he returns with his lastest critically acclaimed album released earlier this year. Liberte ? produced by Martin Messonier and has been embarked on a world tour for the past 6 months and unveil it for the first time in Las Vegas's MGM Grand Garden Arena in the global premiere of " SAHRA" A historic concert for an Algerian. The first time ever a North African headlines in Las Vegas at one of the most prestigious venues in the country. Just prior Khaled will ask mark another historic event ? the World champion playoff in the riverarly soccer game to be held in Cairo, Egypt between Algeria and Egypt on November 12th.
The pretenders to the throne come and go; some stay around. But Khaled remains the ruler, a man who loves his music, who preaches peace, and whose voice means rai to the world.