Born Khaled Hadj Brahim on February, 29, 1960, in Oran, Algeria. Addresses: Record company--Ark 21 Records, 14724 Ventura Blvd., Penthouse Suite, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403, website:

Known as the "king of rai," Algerian-born Khaled (he dropped Cheb from his stage name in 1992) became a star of Arabic pop music while still a teen. Political and religious unrest led Khaled and many other artists to flee Algeria for France where Khaled recorded his biggest hit, "Didi," in 1992. Khaled became the standout among his fellow expatriates and a star on the French world music scene by incorporating a range of international influences and genres into his music. He included funk, hip-hop, salsa, and reggae, and sang in Arabic and French, giving rai a truly international sound. Khaled enjoys employing diverse producers on his recordings and scored another hit single in 1996 with the love song "Aicha," produced by famed American funk and rock producer Don Was. Khaled's 2000 release, Kenza, is a showcase of his global rai interpretations.

Born Khaled Hadj Brahim in Sidi-El-Houri on February 29, 1960, in Oran, Algeria, Khaled sang and learned to play guitar, bass, accordion, and harmonica as a child. He enjoyed the sounds of Moroccan music and Elvis Presley. Though his uncle played the accordion, Khaled's family looked down on his musical aspirations. His father, a policeman, disapproved of it entirely. Khaled's debut recording, La Route De Lycee, came out when he was just 14 years old. After that, he dropped out of school, left home, and formed a group called the Five Stars, and started to perform at local weddings, parties, and clubs.

Rai music was originally heard in seedy Algerian bars in the 1920s. This "sinner's music" was sung to the beat of light percussion and an ancient rosewood flute called a gasba. Khaled released a handful of self-produced rai cassettes before he teamed up with producer Rachid Baba Ahmed, who had a greater pop sensibility. Under Ahmed's influence, Khaled's sound increasingly began taking on more of a Western sound, incorporating such Western instruments as synthesizers and guitars. Khaled became the most well-known singer of the revived "pop rai" trend that first became popular during the 1960s. Excite online likened his stage presence and effect on Algeria's youth to that of Elvis Presley on American teenagers in the 1950s. Though Khaled was embraced by Algeria's disenchanted youth during the 1980s, not all of Algeria shared the same enthusiasm for rai, which offended the sensibilities of Islamic fundamentalists.

Until 1983, Khaled's music was censored by the Algerian government for both his candid lyrics about romance and his lyrics against Islamic fundamentalism. The Algerian government attacked what it considered to be outspoken hedonism, and Khaled's music was banned from Algerian radio and television. In 1985, though, he was crowned the "king of rai" at Algeria's National Rai Festival in his hometown of Oran. In the late 1980s, sensing trouble in Algeria, Khaled fled to Paris, as did many other Algerian artists, journalists, musicians, and intellectuals. The 1992 Algerian elections were clearly going to be won by Islamic fundamentalists, so the military government canceled the elections and violence broke out. Terrorists targeted and killed many artists, including the popular "prince of rai," singer Cheb Hasni.

The mass exodus of rai musicians to France resulted in a change in the traditional rai sound. Used to shoddy equipment and a strict government, the Algerian singers suddenly had creative freedom and access to France's high-tech recording studios. Exposure to European and other emigrant cultures influenced the sound as well, though "with mixed results" for many artists, according to critic Peter Margasak in the New York Times.

In 1992, Khaled was the first Algerian expatriate to break out in France with his love song "Didi," a crossover hit for his French record label Cohiba. On his album Khaled, the singer continued to globalize the rai sound and even began to incorporate funk, hip-hop, reggae, and the French chanson--a song style from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Though his songs had taken on an international flavor, Khaled remained true to the Arabic sound with his "seductive phrasing and nasal, soulfully gruff voice," wrote Margasak. Khaled's records became popular in France, the Middle East, and India. In the mid 1990s, Khaled dropped "Cheb" from his stage name, a term meaning "kid" that was given to singers like Khaled to make them distinct from older, more traditional artists.

Khaled's subsequent albums, including N'ssi N'ssi, Hada Raykoum, and Young Khaled, did not match the success of "Didi," but Khaled came back with an album, Sahra ,and a major hit, "Aicha," in 1996. Khaled hired two very different producers for Sahra, which he named for his first daughter. Phillipe Eidel brought out an Asian sound on Sahra, while famed American rock and funk producer Don Was added a touch of funk. The album reached a new "hip" audience, according to record label Ark 21.

For his fifth studio album, Kenza, which he named for his second daughter, Khaled again employed two distinctly different producers. Briton Steve Hillage--who had produced for Simple Minds, Charlatans UK, and founded the 1970s group Gong--took on half the record, and Lati Kronlund, founder of the New York acid-jazz music collective Brooklyn Funk Essentials, produced the rest. The two worked independently, recording with Khaled in studios in London, Cairo, New York, Paris, and the South of France. On Kenza, Khaled continued to explore global influences, from the Indian pop sound on "El Harba Wine," a duet with 19-year-old Hindi film star Amar, to "Gouloulha-Dji," with its salsa-like beat. A critic in Glass Eye called the release "as infectious as it is diverse." Some of the songs, like "Raba Raba" and "Trigue Lycée," were songs Khaled had released before he left Algeria, but found a fuller, more dynamic sound the second time around. On the Hillage-produced tracks, Khaled is backed by a full Egyptian string orchestra, which brought grace to his funky songs and gave his voice "more elegance and profundity than the rock instruments" Khaled had formerly been backed with, according to Margasak.He also noted that Kronlund's tracks accomplished the "brassy funk" Khaled's previous producers had tried to "fake," while still managing to emphasize "the music's Arabic nature."

by Brenna Sanchez

Khaled's Career

Released debut, La Route De Lycee, at age 14; left home and formed band, the Five Stars, released several self-produced cassettes; was declared the "king of rai," 1985; left Algeria for France, late 1980s; dropped "Cheb" from his stage name, 1992; had a hit single with "Didi," 1992; scored another major hit with "Aicha," from his Don Was-produced album Sahra, 1996; released King of Rai, 1999; released Kenza, 2000.

Famous Works

Recent Updates

August 9, 2005: Khaled's album, Spirit of Rai, was released. Source:,, August 18, 2005.

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