Code switching and the globalisation of popular music: The case of North African rai and rap

Eirlys E Davies 1 , 1  and Abdelali Bentahila 2 , 2
  • 1 King Fahd School of Translation, Tangier, Morocco.
  • 2 University Abdelmalek Essaadi, Tetouan, Morocco.


Present trends towards the globalisation and hybridisation of popular music genres are illustrated through an examination of two types of music currently popular in North Africa: rai, a genre originating in Algeria and now becoming better known in the West, and rap, a product of the West which has now been appropriated by Algerian and Moroccan performers. Parallels are drawn between the paths followed by these two genres. The study focuses on the use made of code switching between Arabic and French in both genres. Different patterns of switching are identified and their funtions explored. It is argued that in both genres switching may be used both as a localising device, through the use of a highly specific in-group variety, and as a device which opens up the lyrics to a wider range of audiences.

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Multilingua is a refereed academic journal devoted to multilingualism, language learning, intercultural communication and translating and interpreting in their social contexts. Multilingua focuses on critical sociolinguistic studies of language and communication in globalization, transnationalism, migration and mobility across time and space. It is an international forum for interdisciplinary research on linguistic diversity in social life.