Algerian music is virtually synonymous with ra among foreigners; the musical genre has achieved great popularity in France, Spain and other parts of Europe. For several centuries, Algerian music was dominated by styles inherited from Andalusia, eventually forming a unique North African twist on these poetic forms. Mixed with Ottoman influences, Algerian music came to include suites called nuubaat (singular” nuuba). Later derivatives include rabaab and hawzii.

Sha-bii is, in most Arab countries, folk music; in Algeria, however, it refers to a style of recent urban popular music, of which the best known performer was El Hajj Muhammad El Anka. True styles of folk music include hofii, a form of female vocal music, and zindalii, from Constantine.

Kabylia
Kabylia is a region east of the capital Algiers, inhabited mostly by Berbers, the indigenous people of North Africa. Kabylian folk music has achieved some mainstream success outside of its homeland, both in the rest of Algeria and abroad.

In the 1930s, Kabylians moved in large numbers to Paris, where they established cafes where musicians like Cheikh Nourredine added modern, Western instruments like the banjo, guitar and violin to Kabylian folk melodies. Slimane Azem was a Kbylian immigrant who was inspired by Nourredine and 19th century poet Si Mohand Ou Mohand to address homesickness, poverty and passion in his songs, and he soon (like many Kabylian musicians) became associated with the Algerian independence movement.

By the 1950s, Arab classical music, especially Egyptian superstars like Umm Kulthum, had become popular and left a lasting influence on Kabylian music, specifically in lush orchestration. Cherif Kheddam soon arose with the advent of a Kabylian branch of Radio Algiers after independence in 1962. Female singers also became popular during this period, especially Cherifa, Djamilla and Hanifa.

Algerian independence did not lead to increased freedom for Kabylian musicians, and the Berbers soon included often covert lyrics criticizing the Ben Bella government. Many of these musicians were inspired by other singer-songwriters, including Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, Vctor Jara and Silvio Rodriguez.

Idir, a Kabylian geology student, sang Kabylia’s first major hit, which sold an unprecedented amount in Algeria and abroad, “A Vava Inouva” (1973). Ferhat, known for his politically uncompromising lyrics, and A t Menguellet, known for his poetic and inspired lyrics, also became popular during the 1970s.

During the 1980s, Kabylian music evolved into sentimental, pop-ballads performed by groups like Takfarinas. Some of the inspiration for this evolution was the popularity of pop-rai internationally.

Ra
Ra, which may be translated as opinion, is a form of folk music, originated in Oran, Algeria from Bedouin shepherds, mixed with Spanish, French, African-American and Arabic musical forms, which dates back to the early 20th century. Since the late 1970s, a form of pop-oriented ra has become popular throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.