The miseries of life

It is a world of violence, precariousness, marginality, and for most a perpetuation under different guise of the miseries endured during childhood. It is an insufficient response to the need to find a place in a society that is hard on helpless women, or those who have "cold shoulders" (1) as they are described in songs. With respect to the anonymity to which these women are so attached, let us consider some of the lives of these rejected and marginalized women who nonetheless dream as much as any others of respectability. All of them express the desire to go on the redeeming pilgrimage to Mecca, to marry well, to establish themselves, and to forget the past.

One singer was born into a very poor family. Her handicapped father drove a cart "that transported other people's goods." When he died her mother remarried and it was hell for the orphan. She left the house at the age of eighteen and found herself pregnant and unmarried. She met a singer who adopted her child, and she entered the world of arts, singing at weddings and in cabarets. She divorced and married a berrah by whom she had four children; they still sing together.

Another singer is the daughter of a prostitute and grew up in a world where only the resourceful can survive. She experienced great poverty that forced them "to search for something to eat or a place to sleep." She has a lovely voice and met some people who brought her to sing at the age of sixteen.

Yet another singer, who was married to a man who was "very harsh and violent," was cloistered by him and swore that when he died she would "sing in front of men." Widowed with two young daughters to support, she began to sing to survive and never remarried.

One was a shepherdess. Orphaned very young, she wandered the roads and streets, sleeping "in other people's places." She was noticed for her singing at a business party, began her career, married a flutist and had six children by him. During this time she continued to sing because she wanted to do so.

Another sheikhat from a poor family was widowed at the age of twenty. Her father had also just died. Without hope and with a son who was still a baby, she began to sing in an ensemble of meddahat. She then met a flutist and set off with him on a career as a sheikhat. She never remarried.

In these biographies the need to survive and a love of music are intertwined. They tell of the establishment of artistic couples, (the most famous of which is that of Cheba Fadéla and Cheb Sahraoui, who sing in a duo and separate from their young son as seldom as possible), and the lives of mothers who try to strike a balance in their lives on the road. Perhaps in order to find what attracts these singers to a situation that weighs so heavily on them, we must look at some of the finer aspects of this art.

The most famous duo in the city as well as on stage:
Chaba Fadéla and Cheb Sahraoui, N'sak fuKk (I Belong to You) (wav file: 283 kb)

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