Cheb Mami

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Cheb Mami
Cheb Mami en 1986.jpg
Background information
Birth name Mohamed Khelifati
Also known as Cheb Mami
Born (1966-07-11) 11 July 1966 (age 49)
Origin Saïda, People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria
Genres Raï[1]
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, Instrumentalist
Years active 1982 – present
Labels Virgin, A&M
Associated acts Sting

Ahmed Khelifati Mohamed (Arabic: أحمد خليفاتي محمد‎, aḥmad khalīfātī muḥammad) better known by his stage name Cheb Mami (Arabic: شاب مامي‎, shābb māmī), (born in Saïda, Algeria on 11 July 1966) is an Algerian raï singer. He sings and speaks in Algerian Arabic and French[citation needed].


Cheb Mami was born in Graba-el-wed (Arabic: غربة الواد), a populous quarter of Saïda (Arabic: سعيدة), Algeria. Located 170 kilometres south of Oran, the city of Saida is on the high mesas of southwestern Algeria.[2]


It was in 1985 that Mami came to Paris and found his musical niche.

He was in military service for two years in Algeria but was an entertainer on army bases. After that, in May 1989, Mami returned to Paris at the Olympia, rejuvenating raï music. He also toured the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Scandinavia and England.

Mami's music is a blend of Mediterranean and Western influences including Turkish, Flamenco and Greek music as well as Latin music. His voice is tinged with Andalusian accents, and his music is an amalgamation of the traditional and the modern styles of singing and creation of music.

International recognition[edit]

When Sting's album Brand New Day was released in 1999, the pair's duet, "Desert Rose", appeared on singles charts around the world, and led to television appearances on Saturday Night Live, the Today Show, Jay Leno, David Letterman, the Grammy Awards telecast and even a live performance at the Super Bowl.[3]

Although Mami has been able to be recognized by mainstream media in the United States, Americans often equate his raï music genre with rock in the US during the 1950s and 1960s.[4] Americans believe raï to be "North African punk,[4]" a genre of music for the purpose of rebelling against the government and resembling the music of ‘young rockers’[4] in the US, when in reality this music plays a very different role in the life of the North African diasporic community in France.[4] Although raï does include narratives of the various struggles of this community against "the Algerian state or against the forces of ‘tradition’",[4] it is also the "music of the racialized Other"[4] which chronicles struggles with racism and identity of North African people in France.

Arrest, imprisonment and release[edit]

Mami was under an international arrest warrant after being indicted in October 2006 for "voluntary violence, sequestration and threats" against an ex-girlfriend, and failing to answer a court summons on 14 May 2007. He was accused of having tried to force Isabelle Simon, his former girlfriend and a magazine photographer, to have a forced abortion.[5] During a trip to Algeria in the summer of 2005, the victim Isabelle Simon was locked in a house belonging to one of Mami's friends, where an abortive procedure was attempted on her. Back in France, however, she realized the fetus was still alive; she later gave birth to a daughter. Mami had accused his manager Michel Lecorre (a.k.a. Michel Levy) of organizing the abortion plan; Michel Levy was later sentenced to four years for plotting and organizing the assault.[6][7][8][9]

Mami was arrested in France several days before his trial; he was taken into custody by officials at a Paris airport as he arrived into the country from Algeria on 22 June 2010.[10] The following July, a Paris court found him guilty of drugging and attempted forcible abortion, and sentenced him to five years in prison.[11]

On 21 September 2010, his lawyers applied for conditional release, a request that was turned down on 12 October 2010.[12] Upon a second appeal however, the French court agreed for his conditional release on 23 March 2011.[13]


In July of 2015 Cheb Mami had to compensate compensate 200,000 euros to Cheb Rabah (born Rabah Zerradine) for plagiarizing his texts. The songs in question are Le raï c'est chic, Madanite, Ma vie deux fois, Gualbi Gualbi. Cheb Rabah also became the co-author of Désert rose.[14] On April 3, 2015, Khaled was also convicted with plagiarism, for Didi recorded by Cheb Rabah in 1988.[15][16][17]

Selected discography[edit]

  • Prince of Raï (1989)
    • Tracks: Ana Mazel  • Dertfik Confiance  • Douni El Bladi  • Lella Rani Ensaaf El Mektoub  • Ralia Mahboubit Galbi  • Tayo Tayo Adiani
  • Let Me Raï (1991)
    • Tracks: Yo Yo  • Haoulou  • Let Me Cry  • Douha Alia  • Fatma  • Rah Eddani  • Khalihoum  • Maandi  • Manimane  • Alache Alache
  • Saida (1994)
    • Tracks: H'babi  • Ma Ma  • Gaulbak K'ssah  • Hay Wadi Hay Galbi  • Bent Bareh  • Baida  • Ghi N'Ti  • Li Fet ghi Mnem  • Zouaji  • Alache Alache  • Trab
  • Douni El Bladi (1996)
    • Tracks: Douni el Bladi  • Dertfik Confiance  • Ralia Mahboubit Galbi  • Ana Mazel  • Lella Rai Saaf El Mektoub  • Tayo Tayo Adiani  • Ouach Etsalini  • Idha Enti Bitik  • Chedi Bentek  • Maniche Aadouk  • Ghebnouha  • Sehrane Ouahdi  • Alauni (Instrumental)
  • Meli Meli (1999)
    • Tracks: Meli Meli  • Alache Alik  • Bledi  • Rani Maak El Youm  • Fatma  • Hada Ch'h  • Hatachi  • Bekatni  • Cheikh  • Azwaw  • Parisien du Nord  • Marseillais du Nord  • Au Pays des Merveillus  • Azwaw Alternative
  • Dellali (2001)
    • Tracks: Raï C'est Chic  • Viens Habibi  • Madanite  • Rim Lachoua  • Yahamami  • Ana Oualache  • Ma Vie 2 fois  • Tzazae  • Zarartou  • Mamazareh  • Machi Chaba  • Hoaulou  • Khalouni
  • Lazrag Saani (2002)
    • Tracks: Lazrag Saani  • Zazarkhatri  • Rouhi Douri Yalala  • Mani Sabar  • Madiriche Aliya  • Hay Delali  • Delali Mantzaoutchi  • Raikoum Rai Ma  • Salou Maana  • Derti Jauline  • Ana Khatini  • Hoaulou  • Sair Fer
  • Du Sud au Nord (2003)
  • Live au Grand Rex (2004)
    • Tracks: Azwaw  • Parisien du Nord  • Nagumo feat. Susheela Raman  • Mamzareli  • Mazal Souvenir Aandi  • Desert Rose  • Koum Tara feat. Enrico Macias  • Bledi - Mon pays  • Cosi Celeste feat. Zucchero  • Alache Alik  • Meli Meli  • Des 2 Côtés feat. Mous et Hakim  • Haoulou  • Zarartou
  • Layali (2006)
    • Tracks: Halili feat. Zaho  • Gualbi Gualbi  • Inshallah  • Tigi Tigi  • Gaiye bil Salama  • Ahla Layali Omrina  • Ajlissou  • Nos Couleurs feat. K.Maro  • Mama Dabia  • Ellie Beina Intaha  • Amshi Btraring  • Non c'sera non (Omri Omri) feat. Sween


  1. ^ Azpiri, Jon. "Cheb Mami – Dellali". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 16 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Metro Times - Music: Rai rebel
  3. ^ Rosenberg, Dan. (2001). "Cheb Mami." Afropop Worldwide. Accessed on 19 March 2008 from
  4. ^ a b c d e f Gross, Joan, David McMurray, and Ted Swedenburg. "Arab Noise and Ramadan Nights: Rai, Rap, and Franco-Maghrebi Identities." Diaspora 3:1 (1994): 3- 39. [Reprinted in The Anthropology of Globalization: A Reader, ed. by Jonathan Xavier and Renato Rosaldo, 1
  5. ^ Afrik with El Watany: L’avocat de Michel Lévy répond à Cheb Mami (in French)
  6. ^ Daily Telegraph article: Cheb Mami sentenced to five years in forced abortion case
  7. ^ "Arrest warrant issued for Algerian singer" (accessed 29 May 2007)
  8. ^ "French issue international warrant for Algerian singer Cheb Mami" (accessed 29 May 2007)
  9. ^ « Cheb Mami retourne devant le tribunal »,, Retrieved on 2008-10-16.
  10. ^ "Rai star, forced French abortion" (BBC News, Tuesday, 30 June 2009
  11. ^ BBC report: Rai star jailed for abortion bid
  12. ^ Le Parisien: Cheb Mami, la star du raï, reste en prison (in French)
  13. ^ Le Figaro: Cheb Mami est en liberté conditionnelle (in French)
  14. ^ "La star du raï Cheb Mami et EMI condamnés pour plagiat". 20 minutes. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 
  15. ^ "à propos de sa chanson à succès Didi : Khaled condamné pour plagiat". El Watan. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 
  16. ^ "Raï : Khaled condamné pour plagiat pour son tube « Didi »". Le Monde. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 
  17. ^ ""Didi" : comparez la version de Khaled et l'originale de Rabah". Nouvel Obs. Retrieved 5 October 2015.