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Akim El Sikameya: Un Chouia d’amour

United States
22nd October 2008

The libertine voice

After he has explored his Arab-Andalusian inheritance for a long time, the Algerian singer Akim El Sikameya gives us a highly personal third album : “Un chouia d’amour”. With this new opus, he has asserted himself as a genuine and complete artist. Indeed, he is a rare voice performer and a composer of timeless melodies, but he also signs up some courageous texts. His last songs make him a contemporary libertine, in its literal sense: an artist fond of freedom, who lauds the pleasures of life against rising fundamentalism.

‘Un Chouia d’amour’: the album

This third album of Akim El Sikameya can be seen as a new step in the course of a true artist. Indeed, after learning Arab-Andalusian style in a renowned school in Algeria, he has first made two albums marked by this music and its cross-cultural philosophy. But for now, even if he is always inspired by the taste for melody, the cross-cultural exchanges, and the defence of art and love against power – which are the very features of Arab-Andalusian music – he has really found a way which is only his. Thereby you can hear in one track influences such as Oran song, ska klezmer, flamenco, french waltz, gypsy rhythms… but the only way to describe this music would be to say : it is El Sikameya’s.

“Akim comes from a culture in which vocal expression creates the musical universe. To sing implies a lot of things, as opposed to the occidental music: a voice is often pasted on a relatively common play-back. I think it’s highly interesting, in this musical culture of the melody, to go further into crossroads…We have borrowed elements from the Latinos, from jazz music….in a natural way, and without any mannerism. All this supposes that Akim sings a little bit differently, and because the exchange between us is interesting, it creates the new thing and consequently the strength of the new Sikameya.” explains Philippe Eidel, the album producer (and producer of Khaled famous hits, Nssi Nssi and Didi). So with ‘Un Chouia d’amour’, we hear a new sound, impelling and groovy. The main instruments (guitar, violin, accordion, double-bass and large range of drums), have been recorded together in order to structure the tracks and to give them some live energy ; then, the brass and other unusual instruments (bouzouki, charango, mandol) have been added. They come to enrich the tone of the album with typically Andalusian fineness and joy. For this opus, Akim El Sikameya has also worked on his voice’s tone (naturally shrill and ambiguous) in order to reach a heart-rending deep voice.

For, indeed, the themes of this new album can truly upset. As he dares for the first time to speak about the country he left ten years ago, Akim wrote all the lyrics in Arabic (except one, ‘The Black Ribbon’, remake of one of his stage hits, with French lyrics) ; with a pen mixing the current political notes and a fable or a tale-like tone.

In a nutshell, mingling with success darkness and lightness, Akim El Sikameya is part of those rare artists, who rather like to joke about their misfortune, – which helps us to cope with ours. So, his album is a real antidote against gloom, a kind of antidepressant without side effects… apart from waking us up : life is short, take advantage of it without listening to those who promise you the after-life !

AKIM EL SIKAMEYA: the journey of a free…and libertine artist

The nostalgia of the exile

Akim was born in Oran, the Algerian music capital. From a happy childhood in ‘El Bahia’(the « joyful city » as it is called), what especially stands out this youngest son of a well-off and cultivated family, is music. At the age of eight, he joins the well-known Arab-Andalusian music school Nassim El Andalous and learns to sing and to play the violin. At twelve, he criss-crosses Algeria with the school band of his Secondary school, and finances is study, playing all night in weddings and Oranian holidays. Great performer of the Arab- Andalusian music,-born with the encounter and the exchanges between the three monotheistic cultures-, Akim also knows various repertoires, from Rai to the Arab-French song (his idol: the Jew Salim El Hillali), or to the popular Moroccan song.

From this hallowed period, Akim keeps in his mind the taste for blends and for feasts. But the serious disease of a loved mother added to the civil war which condemns his elder brothers to the exile, will stand out the end of Eden and the discovery of hurt. Akim takes gradually refuge into music in order to survive during the torment, and create with his friends the El Meya’s band. For the first time and for this band, he transforms nubas into songs, adding a flamenca guitar and a piano to a music which ignored such instruments. Here is the sketch of a crossbred style he will ripen years after years.

Finally, he follows in his brothers’footsteps and leaves Algeria with two friends of the band to reach an admired and dreamt France. He arrives in Marseille in 1994 and discovers love, freedom, and he quickly becomes the whooping-cough of the artistic and intellectual Phocaean background. He is quickly spotted because of his rare top C voice, his unique way of playing the violin (standing, the instrument leant on his thigh), and his very Mediterranean charisma. Thus he rapidly signs up with an independent label, who releases his first album (Atifa-Oumi) in 1999. But behind the recent successes, the injury of a lost childhood remains deep, one of his first ballad attesting of it: ‘Oumi’ (meaning in Arab both « earth » and « mother »), dedicated to a mutilated country and to a departed mother. The adventure of singularity

“Akim tries to develop an author’s, composer’s and performer’s gait at the same time; he definitely asks to himself the three questions. He doesn’t look for existing things or already known landmarks. He takes a lot of risks, what is something courageous.”, says Philippe Eidel, the producer of the new album. Indeed, after a promising tour with prestigious first parts (Alain Souchon, Julien Clerc, Noa, Khaled, Cesaria Evora…), Akim decides to come to Paris in order to create his own label: in 2005, he releases a new album, Aïni-Amel, in which he writes and composes all songs entirely. He leaves behind him the traditional songs of his debut, and carries on deepening into the Arab-Andalusian music, while introducing more current styles such as Jazz music, Celtic music or Bossa…
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