Print this Page

World Music CD Reviews Africa

Abdel Hadi Halo & The El Gusto Orchestra Of Algiers

By Tom Jackson
Published July 18, 2008

Abdel Hadi Halo & The El Gusto Orchestra Of Algiers
Honest Jon's

When Algeria gained its independence from France, it signaled the end of the golden age of cha’abi—a musical style that merrily mixed tango with boogie-woogie, Arabic words with French, and Jewish traditions with Muslim. An Algerian echo of the Buena Vista Social Club, this album is an attempt to bring a group of long-separated musicians back together. Bandleader and pianist Abdel Hadi Halo surrounds himself here with some 30 players, now in their 70s, all of whom represent a vital connection to the Algiers Conservatoire (now long since closed). Over a barrage of ouds, banjos, flutes and darboukas, the ensemble delivers a lively set, by turns raucous and melancholy, that ripples with tunes of nostalgia and pretty girls. They make a big, raw sound, recorded without overdubs, and if they lack the mellifluousness of Maurice El Medioni (who has played with the group in Europe) or the swagger of the late Lili Boniche, they certainly have bucketloads of gusto.