Algerian rapper Soolking plays the Apollo of Harlem on his first US tour

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New York (AFP) – While his merengue-influenced single “Suavemente” once again topped the French song charts, Algerian rapper Soolking was in the US, delighting fans and courting new followers with his blend of rap and folk music. Maghrebian.

Already acclaimed in the French-speaking world, the Algerian rapper Soolking has this year set his sights on North America, where he has performed in historic halls such as the Apollo in New York and the Globe Theater in Los Angeles.

“I never thought that one day I would come here to sing,” born artist Abderraouf Derradji told AFP behind the scenes of his set in the prestigious Harlem hall, which launched the career of icons such as Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin, and where James Brown recorded a groundbreaking live album.

“It’s a legendary venue like the Olympia in Paris…where so many legendary artists have performed,” Soolking said, wearing oval sunglasses and a black beanie.

“It’s an honor for me, it’s cool.”

Born and raised in the suburbs of Algiers, the 32-year-old was born to a percussionist father and started playing music and learning to dance at a very young age.

He first moved to France in 2008, but returned to Algeria to join the rap group Africa Jungle, with which he released two albums: “Ched Rohek” and “Eclipse”.

Already acclaimed in the French-speaking world, the Algerian rapper Soolking has this year set his sights on North America, where he has performed in historic halls including the Apollo in New York and the Globe Theater in Los Angeles. Angela WeissAFP

The artist returned to France several years later, launching a solo career in 2016, adopting the nickname Soolking and beginning to play in small venues and stream music online.

He went viral shortly after performing his song “Guerilla” – a track about his experience of undocumented immigration – on the popular French radio show “Planet Rap”.

“Represent Algeria”

With two hit albums under his belt and another on the way, Soolking embarked on a North American tour this spring which, along with New York and Los Angeles, included dates in Montreal, Houston, Chicago and Washington.

Like his merengue-influenced single "sweetly" once again topping the French song charts, Algerian rapper Soolking was in the States, delighting fans and courting new followers with his mix of rap and Maghreb folk music
While his merengue-influenced single “Suavemente” once again topped the French song charts, Algerian rapper Soolking was in the United States, delighting fans and courting new followers with his blend of rap and Maghreb folk music. Angela WeissAFP

The artist who sings in both French and Arabic wants to expand her global reach but doesn’t really care where her fans come from: “The most important thing is my fans.

“In my home country, there are people who listen to me and people who don’t listen to me,” the rapper continued. “I will look for what is human, because in the end, music is feeling.”

As evidenced by his first New York show, Soolking had paved the way in the United States long before performing on any of his stages: fans danced and sang at the Apollo, waving Algerian flags and lighting up their phones .

“It’s just amazing to see someone from our country in New York and their name in the lights,” said Sarah Hammadi, 26, one of four cousins ​​who traveled from New Jersey to attend the show.

“It’s amazing, he really represents Algeria.”

“It just feels like coming home,” said her cousin Dilia, 18. “He’s such a pop icon in our country…it warms our hearts.”

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