June 30, 2009

Rai singer Cheb Mami goes on trial

I think, THINK I might have touched on this a year ago but at the time there wasn't a lot going on, and if I did talk about it I'm pretty sure I didn't discuss the whole thing in my blog? I'd go search but that would require looking through my archives. So, mulligan!

This is kind of complex since except for some time in the late 90s I don't think Cheb Mami ever got a lot of US recognition although he remained popular in Europe--and ain't it the way. So...I won't give you a whole bio but I have to tell you something to get you up to speed.

For one thing Cheb Mami (born Ahmed Khelifati Mohamed) is an Algerian born Rai singer. American audiences probably remember him best from his guest spot on the seminal Sting hit, "Desert Rose".

Obviously that wasn't his first time at the races. Mami's a pretty interesting figure considering his genre--if you look at the Wiki link, you'll see that rai comes from a form of folk music. It so happens that he's the most notable rai singer with the most mainstream & crossover success (with fans & critics dubbing him the Prince of Rai). Look at this paragraph from his Wikipedia page:

Mami's first collaboration with Sting in 2001 on, "Desert Rose", "topped the charts around the globe, and led to television appearances on Saturday Night Live, the Today Show, Jay Leno, David Letterman, the Grammy Awards telecast and even a live performance at the Super Bowl".[3] His international success, and namely his recognition in mainstream American popular culture, has led him to be called the "Prince of Raï".[2] Although Mami has been able to be recognized by mainstream media in the United States, Americans often equate his raï music genre with rock in the US during the 1950s and 1960s.[4] Americans believe raï to be "North African punk,[4]" a genre of music for the purpose of rebelling against the government and resembling the music of ‘young rockers’[4] in the US, when in reality this music plays a very different role in the life of the North African diasporic community in France.[4] Although raï does include narratives of the various struggles of this community against "the Algerian state or against the forces of ‘tradition’",[4] it is also the "music of the racialized Other"[4] which chronicles struggles with racism and identity of North African people in France. Mami's international success is commendable and an indication of the power of his music; however, the misunderstanding of the roots of the raï music genre may allow the music to seem more relatable to international, especially American audiences.

Now...I tell you all that just to give you some background on the man himself so we're all sort of on the same page. You'll notice I said in the title of the post, he's on trial. And he is, on trial for something pretty damn fucked up. Unfortunately, it seems this story didn't get a lot of air time except overseas, and even then mostly in Algeria & France (don't quote me on that, I may just fail at searching). In any case, I'll tell you now. Note, I'm going to paraphrase a lot so check out the sources at the end.

Back in 2005, Mami allegedly kidnapped his ex-girlfriend and kept her in a house, forcing her to have an abortion in Algeria. According to Wikipedia this girlfriend was a magazine photographer so I'm guessing he had reason to believe having a child out of wedlock would fuck his image up, plus his manager is also under investigation. In any case the woman gets back to France and realizes the abortion procedure failed--not sure how on that--and she gave birth to the child who's about three now. Naturally Cheb is denying any of this.

Word of this got out to the authorities in 2006 and Mami pretty much quit his native Algeria and escaped to France, and had an international arrest warrant put out on him. He was finally arrested in France Monday so his trial can officially begin--his trial, which Mami wanted held in Algeria because he claimed he'd lost faith in the French judicial system. But it looks like he's going to be tried in France anyway.

If you want more, I give you...SOURCES (also his Wikipage):



and Source

are basically where I culminated that paraphrasing from.

I'll be following this as best I can so I'm not quite ready to give a lot of judgment calls for this except what I can see on the surface. And now, my judgment calls:

For one thing, I know worldwide we forgive celebrities for a lot of shit they should never be forgiven for but if indeed this is true is just damn unforgivable. There is no reason I can even fathom that you would try to force a woman to abort her (and your) child. That is HER CHOICE, not yours. You don't get to fucking kidnap her & put her through a risky home procedure and endanger her life as well as the unborn baby's by basically having your boys come in & use home methods. If you think a baby is going to mess up your image or is against your beliefs somehow, you...should have thought about that beforehand. It's pretty much all you, Cheb. I know society has instilled in men this sense that they can control women's bodies with a snap of the fingers but in the real world this isn't true.

But again it hasn't come out, I don't think, why he would try to have the pregnancy terminated so all I can do is guess until more is known. I don't feel wrong though which is kind of sad, but I'm not one to get in people's heads.

In any case, I thought it was interesting that he wanted the trial held in Algeria instead of France. I guess he figures the French are going to actually give him a trial and MAYBE persecute that ass. It makes me suspicious--does this have to do with the woman and the fact that she's...well, a woman? Is Algeria going to have mercy on him because he's a native son? Tried in France, he's looking at a dismal 10 years or so considering what he did.

As a sidenote, I think the language surrounding the woman in this is interesting. Since she hasn't been named we have to give her a title, but in various articles she's a partner, a companion, a lover, and/or a girlfriend almost interchangeably. Myself, I used girlfriend just because really, I could have easily used any of the other words.

So, I'm hoping because the trial is finally starting this week there will be more news frequently rolling and I'll be able to keep up and see how this pans out.

Edyt of random ass thoughts: Actually, you know, I didn't realize I hadn't implied this but I'm really interested in hearing the woman's side of this. I wonder if she'll even testify? Would she want her identity revealed at this point? Blood tests done on the child? I don't know if any of that's happened yet...I'm also morbidly interested in these failed home abortion tactics. The more I think about the ways they could have fucked up and the child still managed to survive the sicker I feel, and I really want someone to give me some goddamn explanations for this foolery.

I'm also still curious as to why this doesn't get more coverage. Okay Cheb Mami's not that big a name in the States anymore but this is pretty severe & I think worthy of someone's time. But on the other hand it's not like many details (other than the basic story) have been given on this...and Cheb's kinda been on the run until now so we won't know everything until he and the woman AND the manager AND everyone involved in this shit give their stories.

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