In brief

Amazigh music legend Idir dies at 70

Kabyle songwriter stood out in the defence of cultural diversity and minoritised peoples

Idir. Author: Chatsam @ Wikipedia
Kabyle singer and songwriter Idir died, 2 May, at the age of 70 in Paris. Idir, whose real name was Hamid Cheriet, popularized throughout the world the musical sounds of his native Kabylia, and achieved international success in the 1970s with A Vava Inouva, a lullaby in Amazigh. This was an injection of pride for the Kabyle people, who saw how the Algerian regime despised at the time Amazigh culture.

Idir, exiled in Paris, defended the Amazigh identity against Arabist impositions of the Algerian regime. The musician celebrated the protests which, in 2019, led to the overthrow of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and highlighted the appearance of numerous Amazigh flags at the demonstrations. A sign, Idir said, that Algeria was accepting its diversity.

Idir indeed showed how he was comfortable with cultural diversity in various collaborations throughout his career. For example, in a joint song he recorded with Breton singer-songwriter Alan Stivell in 1993, Isaltiyen, an anthem to Amazigh-Breton friendship.

In fact, Idir regularly appeared at Breton music festivals, and identified himself with Brittany on multiple occasions. The Kabyle artist is remembered in the Celtic country these days.

The incursions into the music of other European and Mediterranean cultures was, in fact, a sign of Idir’s work, as is also exemplified by the songs included in his album Identités (1999). In it, he adapted traditional Spanish carol Los peces en el río to the Amazigh language, he collaborated with Breton singer Dan Ar Braz, and he took up again A Vava Inouva with a Gaelic patina, in a new version recorded alongside Scottish singer Karen Matheson.