Cheikh El Hasnaoui


Singer and poet, the musical voice of exile for generations of displaced Algerians. Hasnaoui's first hit song, A Fadhma (Oh Fatima) in the 1930s on, there emerged the sense of guilt he carried at being responsible for Fatima's - his sweetheart who was married off under the rigid Berber tradition to an older man - forced and unhappy marriage. In spite of his long happy marriage to his French wife, his yearning for Fatima inspired and dominated his songs. Hasnaoui contributed to the old Algerian Chaabi musical school, which blended the Andalusian and local heritage besides Berber singing. He also sang of exile and separation. In 1937, he came to France as an immigrant looking for work and stayed there - singing in Algerian cafes at night. He suffered from severe arthritis and left France in early 1970s for a Pacific island. Hasnaoui was born Muhammad Khelouati at Ihsniouen, in the heart of the Berber region of Kabylie. The young lad played his guitar and wrote romantic poetry at village weddings.

Compiler: M. Nauman Khan

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