in the footsteps of a Berber legend

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Why a biography on Idir? The reasons are many, many. Because the artist, who passed away in May 2020 at the age of 75, is no ordinary musician. “Idir is not a singer like the others. He is a member of each family”, said of him the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. Because the one who became an interpreter by accident has marked several generations on both sides of the Mediterranean and beyond. Because listening to Idir is both going back in time and embarking on an initiatory and political journey. With Idir, a Kabyle of the world (Editions du Rocher), Farid Alilat makes us follow, step by step, the path traveled by the immense artist. The journalist from Young Africa surveyed about forty witnesses who lived, worked or sang with idir. A wealth of information.

Suddenly, and all at once, Algeria discovered a new sound and texts that shattered the official cultural straitjacket of the 1970s. In the authoritarian Algeria of President Houari Boumediene, a generation of artists, called by the writer Kateb Yacine “the maquisards of song”brings a new look, a new narrative that cracks, with notes and subversive poetry, the uniqueness imposed by the regime. “In this Algeria of the early 1970s, the promotion of the Berber language was fiercely opposed by the Boumediene regime. A new generation of young singers emerged to carry this Kabyle language and identity”notes Farid Allilat.

“We knew the traditional song with mandola or a heavy orchestration, violin melodies inspired by oriental song. We discover a young man of 28, alone, with his guitar and his texts who sings as we had never heard singing “

Farid Alilat, biographer

“Idir, a Kabyle of the world”

The artist who brought his village into the world has (difficult to speak of Idir in the past tense, especially since his stage name means “he will live” in Kabyle) always advocated a peaceful plural identity. The French public discovered him in 1975 with his song At Vava Inouva, broadcast on France Inter by Jean-Pierre Elkabbach. Immediate success. The song has been translated into twenty languages. It is the fruit of a work and a complicity with the poet Ben Mohamed, who wrote nearly a dozen texts for him. In Ben Mohamed the roots, in Idir the wings. Farid Alilat retraces Idir’s career in France and brings us his latest album (Here and elsewhere) with the great names of French song.

Dyears the night of May 2 to 3, 2020, El Hamid Cheriet, his real name, died at Bichat hospital in Paris. Idir, his artist name, lives on.

Idir, a Kabyle of the world, by Farid Alilat, published by Rocher (April 2022)

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