|In this article I have observed the complex social
and cultural phenomenon of beurs generated by
Algerian immigration. These youngsters born to Algerian
parents are often not accepted by either French or
Algerian society. Moreover, even if they define
themselves as French, beurs underline their
particular and peculiar cultural identity, as I have
indicated above, as beur-culture. Raļ music is a
cultural expression both for Algerian immigrants and for beurs.
Raļ enjoys great international success thanks to the
major record companies selling it within the category of
World Music. Moreover, since raļ music is very
heterogeneous, for different reasons both beurs and
immigrants have chosen it as a musical genre
representative of their identity.
The heterogeneity of raļ is an important point, as it is a specific characteristic of this repertoire caused by the cultural dynamics in which raļ has been involved. Events such as emigration - both internal and abroad - colonialism and marketing have helped the development of these dynamics. I have used the concept of musical transculturation (Kartomi 1981) in order to explain how the meeting of these very different cultures (Algerian, beur, and French) has produced numerous phases of raļ musical transculturation, and allows for the existence of many distinct raļ styles.
The market and its search for new consumers is today one of the most important factors in the transformation of raļ music. Sometimes record companies have fostered new raļ styles in order to increase their audiences. I have pointed to the usefulness of Breens (1995) concept of 'cultural mobility" to examine the record companies policy.
However, since a new musical style is taken into consideration as a real new style, it needs to be recognized by a relevant group of people as representative of their identity. By resorting to the concept of 'sound group' developed by Tullia Magrini (2000) I have identified these relevant groups of people as 'sound groups.' It is possible to subdivide the raļ audience (without the French audience) into three principal sound groups: Algerians living in Algeria, Algerian immigrants in France, and beurs.
Gross, McMurray and Swedenburg (1992) indicated that immigrants prefer raļ music because it is a musical repertoire that protects their identity and ethnicity. I have shown that there may be other Algerian musical genres more functional to this role. Instead I suggest that raļ music enables Algerian immigrants to carry out the 'myth of return' through a 'musical metaphor.' This is possible thanks to a particular raļ style, such as Cheb Hasnis, in which the love for a woman, exile, and suffering are correlated. Therefore, as I pointed out, through a 'musical metaphor' the song of love for a woman is translated by immigrants into the love for Algeria, while the pains of love are turned into the pangs of exile.
Through raļ music, beurs were able to change their negative image in French society. The musical market, with its 'cultural mobility', is taking advantage of this reality to nourish the recent image of the 'good beur.'
French sociologists define beur identity as a double culture, in other words, an identity divided irremediably between Algerian and French culture. Instead, in my opinion, they posses an 'in-between' identity (Bhabha: 1996) whose principal characteristic is an ability to cross cultural boundaries (Bohlman 1997). Crossing the boundaries between Algerian and French cultures means the development of a new one, the beur-culture, which is well represented by beur-raļ music.