A great introduction to the music of Lili Boniche, the star of «Francarbe».
Lili Boniche was born in 1921 to a Sephardic family of Andalusian origins, in the Kashbah of Algiers. He was only 10 years old when he left his family to be trained in the art of playing the oud, or Arabic lute. His teacher was a master of Haouzi, a regional style of Arabo-andalusian music. By the age of 15 he had made his musical début on Algerian radio. As he developed further he gradually moved away from classical Arabic music being strongly attracted by 40s nightclub styles (typical at that time in regions to the south and east of the Mediterranean coast): jazz, flamenco, mambo and rumba were all featured together with the «established» dances such as the tango, paso doble and brought together with the Algerian song tradition of the «Chaâbi» in a swinging and sensuous mixture that enjoyed great popularity. In bringing this rich mixture of cultural styles into a further synthesis with his own cultural origins Lili Boniche gradually developed a style of his own, which he called «Francarbe». This was an elegant and self-confident form of popular music, that could well been termed «world music», had this term then existed!
As a protagonist of Francarbe in the late 40s and 50s, Lili Boniche made a career for himself; first in Algeria and later in Paris where his first recordings were made. In the 90s, the term «world music» by now in place, he had a comeback with his album Alger, Alger, produced by Bill Laswell. Also in concerts, with the help of electric guitar and amplification, he attempted to rescue the charm and elegance of this music of a by-gone era from oblivion.