Defense and illustration of
the pleasure principle
While the Raï of complaint, of a conscience ill at ease, supports itself on a moralist discourse (i.e. religious, referring to the norms of the past), a concurrent text rises in the course of the laments: amoral and not requiring justification, it incites to transgression, and praises free and egalitarian physical love, alcohol, and the pleasures experienced by an assembly of drinkers. The contradiction between the two does not disturb neither the singer nor the listener. Indeed, Raï has never hesitated to juxtapose calls to God, the Prophet, and the Saints with the evocation of practices unequivocally condemned by religion, turning this very dissonance into one of the characteristics of its contents. In fact, the sulfurous aura surrounding Raï arises from this intimate mixture of incompatible ideologies, much more than from the rather crude nature of its lyrics. Another mixture causes the atypical effect of the spaces where Raï songs evolve. The forbidden comes through the autonomization of spaces; transgression is based, in part, on the blurring of female and male spaces, and public and private spaces.
The fact that women express their desire in a straightforward manner is still particularly subversive: they discuss the male body and deliver erotic inventories, praising female freedom and mixed Epicureanism. Unapologetically and in spite of the ceaseless affirmation of the existential impasse faced by unhappy beings, they briefly seize their right to proffer a counter- discourse in an area relegated to the emotions in the confines of popular culture.
The provocative tone may be light and the subject matter seemingly insignificant; however, it is in fact crucial. Sometimes humor also becomes part of it:
Elsewhere a more caustic irony is used:
Then in the same song:
But the provocation can be made more direct:
The female singer sets herself as the scapegoat of feminine transgressions, the redeemer of women sinners, but also as the mender of rips in morality as we have seen in an earlier section.
Men can take the initiative and have the power to make sexual decisions, but so can women. Thus the man becomes an object of desire out of which a physical ideal is drawn.
The singing is an enticement to union with this physically imposing man.
Sometimes the eroticism is more torrid.
It may be expressed in metaphor.
An expression of reciprocal value summarizes the successful, egalitarian relation. It must be understood in the sexual sense.
Libertinage is accompanied by a joyous and free conception of life. These free individuals form nice handsome assemblies.
These pleasures are associated with alcohol:
It may even be the highest pleasure.
This praise song for drinking can go very far, as in Rimitti's song:
Rimitti fears nothing. As we have seen, she bears an overflowing vitality and a deep sense of revolution.
A pillar of Raï for fifty years, she has, as we have seen, managed her singing career highlighting aspects of her private life which would give grounds to harsh judgment and rigid stands; she has thus become the living emblem of the emotional themes of Raï.
However, one must look elsewhere for a sort of general manifesto of the type of female individuality which triumphs in Raï. This is evident, for instance, in the text matsalunis "don't ask me to account (for myself)", interpreted by Zahwaniya, which has seen several years of great success and from which I have already provided a large extract,
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