Idir: The Ambassador of the Kabyle Song

Idir is not an artist like the others. He’s never been the kind of person who seeks fame or money. Rather, he was committed and never stopped fighting for the cause he believed in through music and singing.

His name Idir is never mentioned without his fascinating “A vava Innova”, a song that tells one of those legendary stories found in many cultures, symbolizing suffering, fear, injustice, oppression and greed.

This story had a great influence on the child Idir from a young age and accompanied him throughout the different stages of his childhood and youth, just as it made him successful and famous. In collaboration with the poet Mohammed ben Hamdouch, Idir rewrote this song, adding two fragments to the original version. Idir used both traditional and modern musical instruments to compose the melody. The result was captivating and millions of people around the world were fascinated by this song, even if they were not all able to understand the lyrics.

Idir, whose real name is Hamid Cheriet, never imagined he would become an artist, having grown up in a modest family with a father who was a shepherd in Bani Yenni, a marginalised Kabyle village. Despite his passion for music, Idir studied geology and longed to join an oil company. But by chance, he ended up replacing a member of a musical group who was about to perform on Algerian radio.

After this successful experience, Idir opted for this alternative name so that his father, who was opposed to him investing in an artistic career, would not recognize him. Thus, he launched “A vava Innova” in 1973, before joining the military service. The song soon attracted the attention of a number of international production companies, including “Pathé-Marconi”, with whom Idir recorded his first albums after his move to France in 1975.

Despite his interest in modern musical styles such as “pop”, “jazz” and “rock”, Idir remained attached to Algerian folklore and the Kabyle heritage which was reflected in his works and musical compositions, whether done individually or in duets with other Algerian or French artists, for example his song “Zwit Ruwit” with the star of Rai Khaled, “Azouaou” with Mami, or “Tighri Bwgdud” with Amazigh Kateb.

Ider was not comfortable with the ruling power in his homeland. He was a fierce defender of the Amazigh identity and called for the recognition of the Amazigh language as an official language in Algeria, alongside Arabic. He refused to give concerts in Algeria until 2017, when he won his case. He was also among the tough opponents of the regime of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

As his friends and close colleagues confirm, Idir has never given up his modesty. He has always been simple and very private.

Ider was not particularly productive. His artistic career came to a standstill for years. In addition, he didn’t produce many albums. But all his works are of high quality.

Idir passed away last weekend at the age of seventy, but he will remain alive in the hearts of the millions of people who enjoyed his art.

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