Mohamed Tobal was born on September 9, 1945 in Blida, a tranquil city 45 kms south of Algiers. He grew up in el-Djoun, the oldest neighborhood of the city. His first musical hero was Dahmane Ben Achour, Blida's most celebrated artist. Tobal made his first recording in 1972, performing several Hawzi classics in the studio of the national radio. His reputation was built on his instrumental prowess and command of a large repertoire of Arabo-Andalusian poetry. He was a stalwart of the musical salons organized by Hawzi aficionados in Blida and Algiers. Mohamed Tobal died of a heart attack, on July 31, 1993. His heart stopped in the middle of an afternoon performance with Rachid Nouni, in the Hydra neighborhood of Algiers.
Here is Tobal's first cassette, released in 1991. It features four songs. The first Ya Dho Aéyani (the light of my eyes) is a poem praising the town of Tlemcen. Sidi Brahim praises Sidi Brahim el Ghorbini of Cherchell, a town on Algeria's Mediterranean coast. The most memorable track is Qui Qanet el Blida, a poem by Omar el-Gharibi praising the pre-colonial glory of Blida. The poem remembers when 'Blida had walls and doors', when the medieval town was surrounded by walls in the Arabo-andalusian style. The poem sings the praises of Sid Ahmed el Kebir, the mystic who founded Blida in the 16th century.
Thanks to the wonderful K7Matic blog I have listened to more Algerian music this year than ever before. Even if you think you have a good grip on Algerian Rai, do yourself a favor, and spend some time going through these cassettes!!
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