Legendary Algerian music label Disco Maghreb, which launched the careers of some of the Rai folk-inspired genre’s most famous stars, has seen a revival thanks to a hit song by DJ Snake.
This week, the label’s miniature headquarters at a long-shuttered record store in the eastern city of Oran will receive another prominent guest: French President Emmanuel Macron, whose official visit will be focused on outreach to youth in the North African country.
Owner Boualem Benhaoua, 68, said he has “so many memories in the music, so many memories with Rai singers, they all came through here”.
Cheb Khaled, Cheb Mami, Cheb Hasni and Cheba Zahouania are among the most famous stars of the genre, which emerged in 1920s Oran but became a major world music genre in the 1980s, particularly popular in Algeria’s former colonial ruler France.
French-Algerian singer DJ Snake paid tribute to the genre in his song Disco Maghreb, which has been seen 78 million times on YouTube alone and prompted an influx of young Algerians to take selfies at the shop with its iconic model cassette tape hanging outside.
The singer, whose real name is William Sami Grigahcine, has also published a video of himself visiting the famous shop on a street corner in Oran.
“I imagined ‘Disco Maghreb’ as a bridge between different generations and origins, linking North Africa, the Arab world and beyond… This is a love letter to my people,” he wrote on Twitter in May.
Inside the shop, barely touched in years, cassettes pile up on the shelves, surrounded by vintage audio equipment that could be in an antiques museum.
Most of DJ Snake’s fans are from the era of YouTube and TikTok, but they queue up happily for photos with Benhaoua and his vinyl collection.
“It’s an emblematic place in Oran and DJ Snake’s latest track gave it more resonance,” said airline pilot Nawel, 36.
She said she was bringing her children for a visit and to take photos, as they live in France.
Despite the store being closed for years, Benhaoua said he wanted it to become “a place for artists to meet and for new talent to be discovered”.
Benhaoua said the young singer has also shone a spotlight on Oran, with his video clip young people on mopeds and dancing in the street shot in the city.
Many on social media have commented that the clip has done more to promote tourism in the city than official tourism agencies.
Benhaoua said DJ Snake had “the qualities of a great man”.
“He sympathises with people with modest incomes, he himself grew up in these conditions,” he said.
“He’s not just a singer, but like part of the family.”