Taha's version of "Ya Rayah" is a classic example of a traditional song presented in a new fashion.
"Ya Rayah" begins with a short taqsim, improvisation, on the banjo instead of the ud that smoothly leads into the piece proper, which is characterized by a heavy down beat.
The song's popularity stems from its simple groove and summation of the new generation's plight, seeking freedom and a better life. Sung and released in Paris, "Ya Rayah" capitalizes on the ancient Algerian concept of mehna in its embodiment of Algerians' struggle, loss, and yearning to go back home.
Here, concepts like traveling and touring take on a gloomy destiny that lead to despair and loss. One can even draw connections between the "touring" star, its migration through the universe, and the exiled self of the Algerian people. Burdened by poverty and their constant search outside of Algeria for a better life, their spirit is in a constant state of travel, intensified by feelings of exile and departure. We can only imagine how such lyrics would strike a chord within the hearts of hundreds of thousands Algerian immigrants living away from home under conditions of displacement throughout Europe.
Oh departing Traveler, where are you heading?
Your journey is bound to failure
How many travelers before you
Have sought the path with similar results?
How many cities and deserts have I roamed?
How much time have I wasted
Touring from one place to another?
Oh lost one, no matter how much you run away
Your destiny will end in exhaustion
Time has passed you by
And you have yet to notice it.
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