A prolific musician and master who reinvigorated the traditional, lute-based chaabi – a music that emerged at the turn of the 20th century in the Algiers casbahs and cafes – el-Hachemi Guerrouabi was well known for weaving themes from traditional love songs with mystical Sufi text.
He shortened jazzy renditions of classical chaabi tunes and played to massive crowds in Europe and the Arab world. With his phenomenal memory, Guerrouabi could recite thousands of verses of the 16th and 17th century Qasidats, or long poems Prolific, able to move from one style to another with ease, and to perform the same classical pieces in different ways – the classical Arab Andalusian texts popular in Syria and Lebanon.
During Algeria’s turbulent 1990s, he went into exile in Paris, there he continued recording and touring in spite of his deteriorating health and growing nostalgia for Algiers. His homesickness and ill health drove him to return to his country, in 2004. Weakened by diabetes, he played his final concert in the summer of 2006.
El-Hachemi Guerrouabi was born in poor neighbourhood – in the Algiers of the French colonial era.