It is said that music softens the mores. And it’s with a smile on their face and a guitar glued to their fingers that street singers are attempting to remind residents of Algeria’s capital, Algiers; of the good old days, back when the city didn’t sleep.
More of them are colonizing the sidewalks of the Algiers performing for a constantly-changing public, day in and day out.
Their popularity has grown since Mohammed Daha, aka Moh Vita Boy, was arrested in January for illegal occupation of a public space. Civil society groups led by activists and artists managed to gather crowds for an improvised concert which took place at one the most famous squares in town.
This is not what Algiers used to be. Algiers, the white lady, used to live at night, the dark decade killed the city's tradition.
“There was a need for young residents of Algiers to reappropriate the public space and wake up the city which has been asleep,” said Idir Tazerout and Mehdi Mehenni, who led the social media campaign.
As a response to the movement, the Mayor of Algiers, Abdelhakim Bettache, initiated an open policy and began issuing formal authorization for artists to be able to perform on the street.
However, the authorities’ gesture was not enough to convince the campaign leaders. Some of them denounced a political appropriation of their ideas. “The government wants to control everything (…) and when it doesn’t, it gets scared (…) everything that’s beyond its control, frightens it”, said Idir Tazerout to the AFP.
“They are trying to take advantage of all the projects that could potentially give the impression that the youth is actually free to express itself”, he added.
The mayor of Algiers however claims that he is fighting the same struggle: to rekindle the city’s flame, which burned before the terror-ridden decade of the 1990s and the of prohibition of cafés and street shows by the islamist.
“This is not what Algiers used to be. Algiers, the white lady, used to live at night”, deplored the mayor before adding: “the dark decade killed the city’s tradition.”
Today, the city of 3 million souls doesn’t have a concert hall for performers to showcase their work.