‘ Berbers have a right to their own culture.’

‘ Berbers are free people’, explains the Algerian singer Idir. By this choice of words, he is translating the name Berbers give themselves, the Amazigh. ‘It is high time, for us to claim all of our rights.’
‘We cannot live in a reality that is not in accordance with our longing for peace efforts. Within this freedom, there is no space for violence. We’re not a  martial people that conquers other territories. On the contrary, during the past ages, we’ve welcomed a lot of “visitors”. They tried to assimilate us and they’ve almost destroyed the Berber culture. It is high time, for us to claim all of our rights.’ Idir is one of the great advocates of Berber culture. The Algerian singer is very popular in the Berber community in Algeria and Morocco, due to his struggle for cultural sovereignty.
Idir was born in 1949 in Kabylia and named Hamid Cheriet. He calls himself a child of the revolution. ‘We were proud of the independence of our country. The new central power in Algeria should have guaranteed the sovereignty of the different peoples. Very soon however, I was no longer allowed to express myself in my own culture. It was forbidden to sing in a Berber language. I was profoundly disappointed and used my music to oppose the ideological, Arabic-Islamic ideology that was forced upon us.’ In the seventies, Idir became famous through his songs that stood up for equal rights for Berbers. His fusion of Kabyle shepherd flutes, western guitars and derboeka, was a pioneer for the world music scene.
Early July, Idir performed at the Timitar-festival in Agadir, South-Morocco. He postulated his dream that the Berber language and culture should get a place to exist, be taught and to develop. Afterwards, he gave a tremendous concert for 100.000 extremely enthusiastic spectators. ‘Every time I’m in Morocco, I see people who share the same aspirations as those in my home region Kabylia. Berbers are to be found in the whole North of Africa, from Egypt to the Canary Islands. We have a similar culture and our languages are related. The colonisation has drown artificial country borders, through which the Berber communities have been separated.’ Idir explains.
‘Nevertheless we are the same people, I realise this every time I’m performing in another Berber region. Everywhere there is a growing consciousness that we have to fight for our culture. In Algeria, the situation from the Berbers is still not optimal, but due to the struggle for our culture, it is anchored in the constitution. And here -in Moroccan Agadir- they have improved so far that they can even organize a Berber festival.’

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