el Becharia is a remarkable Gnawa woman musician from Algeria.
She is sometimes known as a Gnawa poetess. Her home town, Bechar,
is in the desert area of southern Algeria.
To start with Hasna played wedding music of the Arab-Berber
style for a period of 30 years. She began to play that music
by herself in 1972 and was joined by 3 friends, two of whom,
Zorah and Kheira, are still with her. At first Hasna played
acoustic guitar using the desert's traditional tunes. Eventually
she had to resort to the electric guitar instead so that she
could be heard above the noise her vast audience was making
while singing along with her! Hasna and her friends became well
known in southern Algeria.
A major event took place 4 years later in 1976 - a concert in
Bechar organized by the Union of Algerian Women, with the legendary
Hasna and her band being guest stars. Like numerous Algerian
gnawa musicians, Hasna takes her roots in the popular wedding
repertoire. She also plays oud, derbouka, bendir and even banjo
(but she used to play gumbri only discreetly
behind closed doors in her home).
In January 1999, Hasna arrived in Paris, invited to the «
Women of Algeria » festival at the Cabaret Sauvage, just
as Souad Massi was. Fascinated by her
music, the festival organisers decided to put her on stage every
night, although it had planned that she play one evening only.
Journalists and producers came to see this incredible woman
guitar player from the desert and the French newspaper «Libération
» published an article about her. She decided to stay
in Paris because the circumstances in Algeria were difficult
for her to live under. In August that year Hasna joined
electronic musician Fred Galliano in a concert at the “Festival
de Jazz à Vienne”.
Other highlights of Hasna's career were to star in the “Gnaoua
Festival of Essaouira”
the “Beautiful Nights of Ramadan”. Both concerts
were broadcast worldwide on TV5.
Hasna works with the theatre/circus company 'Salam Toto' in
a show where horses dance to her music.
Hasna was one of the main figures of the “Festival Voix
de Femmes” (Women’s Voices festival) in 2002 in
Bruxelles; she performed at London's South Bank in 2003 and
at the second PanAfrican festival in Algiers in July 2009.
Hasna's first CD, the 9-track CD Djazair Johara, was
released in 2001. Hasna composed most of the recorded songs
in France. Totally uncorrupted by stage or studio performance,
she takes advantage of these new experiences to explore the
sound of guitars, vocal timbres on different tonalities, to
improvise and make new encounters: listen out for mesmerizing
polyrhythms! The recording includes great musicians from Algeria,
but also from Morocco, Tunisia and Niger. They have brought
perfection and rigor. Thus Hasna's work achieves a dimension
far beyond the scope of Algerian music.
One track, 'Hakmet Lakdar' is on the Desert
Blues 2 compilation. Hasna recorded her second album Smaa
Smaa (2010) among
the dunes of the Sahara with extraordinary and simple acoustics.
She describes it as a very personal album. Hasna is currently
on tour in Canada and at Festival du bout du monde in France.