A dancer by training who later became a major star in Algerian variety shows, Hakim Salhi embodies the great era of 1980s raï popular music, which he now blends with western electronic pop-rock and with the gnaoui and chaoui rhythms of his native Algeria.
His career began in 1985 when he won a dance competition held by the Centre culturel français in Algiers. He later joined the Belabbès ballet and, after that, founded his own troupe in Boumerdès. He collaborated with Kabyle singer Takfarinas, gradually moving to a musical career in the 1990s.
His lyrics, anchored in everyday life, express the dreams and hopes of the people. He regards himself as the singer of all Algerians, in a country shaken by long and difficult years. As if to confirm this, he performed in 2007 before thousands of spectators at the inaugural show of the ninth Pan-African Games, held in Algiers. The ceremony was broadcast on television, reinforcing his visibility.
Whether funky-alaoui, funky-raï or in other styles, his compositions, always inspired by real life, stand out for their original tempo. Providing a bridge between Berber- and Arabic-speaking Algerians, Hakim would innovate by performing one of his compositions in Kabyle. He also brought back the guellal, the traditional percussion instrument of western Algeria, used in raï.
On stage, an ensemble of drums, derbouka, guitars, synthesizer and guellal back up the performances by the singer, who deep gruff voice is often used to raise the theme of exile. His pop-raï musical style and his energy on stage are all the rage in Algeria as well as abroad, and he performs in various North African and European countries, as well as in Canada, notably at the Festival du Maghreb in Montréal.
He is often invited to Québec, where he is well received and has many fans, so much so that his greatest hits were recorded by Disques Nuits d’Afrique in 2015 on an album titled Sahraoui, an international edition consisting of the top tracks from his albums Khomeïssa and Makatib.