Idir, the voice of Algeria

This article is also available in: Italiano

One of the most unforgettable figures in the history of music, an artist with poetry and infinite sweetness, a true symbol of his country, Kabylia, and his people, free men. It is with utmost displeasure that we find ourselves saying goodbye to Idir, one of the greatest voices that the Mediterranean has ever seen

Hamid Cheryat, aka Idir

Hamid Cheryat was born on 25 October 1949 in Ait Lahcene, a microscopic village in the Djurdjura mountains, the nerve center of the Kabyle people. Initially studying to become a geologist and devoting himself to the local oil industry, in 1973, however, his fate will take an unexpected turn that fans all over the world still thank and praise.

In fact, the poet Ben Mohammed had just finished writing “A Vava Innouva”, a song that had originally been made for Nouara; her refusal, however, allowed Hamid to make his debut in the world of music. It will be on that same occasion that the singer-songwriter will give himself the nickname of Idir, that is “he will live” in the Kabyle dialect.

Ambassador of Kabylia

The song was immediately an unparalleled success in Algerian history, even if the artist only realized it years later, having to perform compulsory military service in those years. Once finished, Idir moved to Paris on a permanent basis, officially launching his first album in 1975, thus contributing to highlighting the Berber-Kabylian culture, strongly opposed by the Algerian government in those same years.

In the French capital, it will find a sort of second home, managing to fully develop the concepts, thoughts and emotions typical of its land and making its incredible beauty and traditions known to everyone. He was never particularly productive in terms of songs, preferring to give every single word the right weight and dignity, rather than risking falling into the superficiality typical of other colleagues; however there are several artists with whom he had the pleasure of dueting, both of Algerian origin (ex. Cheb Mami and Khaled) and French (ex. Manu Chao and Dan Ar Braz), allowing his music to cross every border.

In 2018 he will finally return to Kabilia after 38 years of exile, being welcomed as one of the absolute fathers of Algerian music. He died on the night of May 2, 2020 due to a pulmonary fibroma, being even honored by Abdelmadjid Tebboune, current Algerian president, who called him “icon of Algerian art” and “monument of the nation”.

Soul of Kabylia

His musical career is very strongly linked to the Imazighen origins, which have been inexhaustible sources for all his artistic production. Idir, having grown up in the heart of Kabylia, put in the lyrics and melodies all the feelings and love for the land typical of his people.

Like (if not better) than Ait Menguellet, he managed to instill in his passages past times but never forgotten, still looked upon with nostalgia by most of the Mediterranean peoples. Idir sang of families united to listen to stories and ancestral dances in the woods, something that today seems so far away but that no one can help but regret; the greatness of this artist was the simplicity and naturalness with which it made us reflect, reminding us of the frugality and beauty of our fathers.

We will never forget you, what you have done is timeless and will remain suspended in eternity, or rather, it will “live” forever as your wonderful nickname. Thanks again Idir and that the earth is mild to you.

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