I want to take you on a journey. (I want to go on it myself, see, and taking you with me seems as good an excuse as any...) The current, popular, Romanian gypsy music is known as “Manele”, and is nearly always heartily derided by anybody with whom you might conceivably want to spend any length of time, as in e.g. “Ach, the beach was covered in beer cans and used condoms and there was manele playing all the time!!” But I maintain that despite everything it's not entirely without merit, and that it takes its inspiration from some pretty worthwhile sources. By looking at these other genres of music I shall lead us at last to the Xanadu that is Manele, and hopefully play some music of interest to you on the way.
Here’s the first: Algerian raï music. With his fine, young voice, Cheb Mami was called The Prince of Raï. Unfortunately he’s gone considerably to bad, is currently serving a 5-year prison sentence in France and has worked with Sting. But his early tracks, like Lella rani ensaaf el mektoub, live on. But if Mami was the prince, Khalid (formally Cheb Khalid*) is certainly the King: a raï superstar - and exile, due to the music’s discussion of things that are not entirely endorsed by Islam. Here he is, as always looking very cheerful and slightly like one of The Scousers after a long and very satisfactory holiday in Benidorm**:
* I believe “Cheb” simply means “young man”
** I mean no insult to Benidorm or to Scousers, or to Khalid, or indeed to anybody with naturally curly hair and dark skin... quite the opposite.... for heaven’s sake this is just a blog.