At the start, there is the discomfort felt by Hassen Ferhani and Mehdi Ahoudig, two Franco-Algerian journalists, as soon as the notes of Ya Rayah, this music popularized by the singer Rachid Taha, resonate. “Come on, you have to dance! they are inevitably asked, without their knowing why. To unravel this mystery, the two documentarians decide to decipher what this song covers, in particular what it says about the integration of French people of Algerian origin.
Their field investigation is revealed in this 33-minute podcast, alternating historical narrative and testimonies collected in the streets of Paris and Marseille. Journalists first meet residents who prefer the first version of Ya Rayah, signed Dahmane El Harrachi, in 1971. The song carries all the suffering of this Algerian living in Paris, nostalgic for his native land.
“Arabs have become more accessible with this song”
From 1998, Ya Rayah suddenly turns into a festive piece. Rachid Taha’s cover, more rock and roll than the original, is a global success listened to in all strata of society. It becomes the allegory of a cosmopolitan France, accepting the culture of those who have migrated to it. “All of a sudden, the Arabs became more accessible with this song”, summarizes the singer Sofiane Saidi. Some see it as a glimmer of hope, where others consider that Ya Rayah locks them into a category.
Feelings and anecdotes are mixed with different interpretations of Ya Rayah under haunting guitar tunes. The intensity of these songs echoes the plurality of feelings, drawing the listener into a sound universe as rich as it is moving.