El Hajj Muhammad El Anka – Master of Chaabi

The 20th of May 1907 saw the birth of the future master of the widely recognized traditional folk music called Chaabi. El Hajj Muhammad El Anka, born Ait Ouarab Mohamed Idir Halo, would also come to dominate the music scene through his inexhaustible songwriting, teaching many of those who were to follow in his famous footsteps as an accomplished musician.

El Hajj Muhammad El Anka began his education studying at three different schools, namely Koranic, Brahim Fatah and Bouzareah. It was however just before his eleventh birthday that he left home to begin working. When he was just thirteen years old, an accomplished orchestra leader names Sheik Mustapha Nador had noticed El Anka at a festival.

The Sheik soon captured the attention of the young El Anka and had him play as a Tardi, or tambourine player, within the Sheik’s Orchestra. From then El Hajj Muhammad El Anka’s music career began to flourish as he acquired the technique of playing the mandolin – which was to become his signature instrument. Unfortunately Sheik Mustapha Nador passed away on the May 19, 1926 in Cherchell thus leaving El Anka to take charge in the organization of future festivals.

In 1927, El Anka began training with Sheik Sid AH Oulid lakehal. This would continue for the next five years.
Columbia Records became his El Anka’s first publisher and introduced him to the public through the formal introduction of Radio PTT Algiers. Three years later, El Anka took over management and supervision of Radio PTT.

With is growing popularity, and during this time, El Anka was fortunate to have the privilege of performing before the King of Morocco. After his recordings with Columbia Records, El Anka was hired by Algeriaphone and Polyphone.

In 1937 El Anka revived his orchestra and traveled locally within Algeria as well throughout Europe including France. By the early 1940’s El Hajj Muhammad El Anka was directing music on the ENRS Algiers Radio thus giving rise to the popular ‘Chaabi’.
In the mid 1950’s El Anka was to become a professor at the well-established municipal Academy of Algiers instructing lessons specifically on chaabi.

By the time of his passing on the 23rd of November 1978 El Hajj Muhammad El Anka wrote approximately 360 songs and produced nearly 130 of his own records. Today, hundreds of musicians and performers have remixed this haunting poetic music in the fond and everlasting memory of this exceptional and legendary Algerian musician, composer and musical innovator.