Lounis Ait Menguellet

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Lounis in a Concert in Algiers

Lounis Aït Menguellet is a Kabylia singer born on January 17, 1950 in Ighil Bouammas, Tizi Ouzou Province in the Kabylie region. Lounis Aït Menguellet sings in the berber language (kabyle variant) and is certainly one of the most popular and charismatic artists of the contemporary kabyle music scene.[citation needed]

He is a poet-musician who has become something of a symbol of the kabyle demands for recognition. Kabylie has been the setting for many fierce confrontations. Although Lounis's songs are frequently about Kabylie and its history and its present suffering and misery, he is always quick to state that he isn't a politician and he doesn't get involved in politics. However, few can deny the political clout of his songs or their political and sometimes very biting and critical messages.

Many critics of Lounis Aït Menguellet's career like to see it as two distinct parts and because that is a generally accepted view it will be the one offered here. The first part is seen as being centred on the production of love songs and nostalgia. Frequently there are references to a lost love. The songs tend to be shorter than he produces today. Typical songs from this period are Thalt Ayam (Three Days) and Tayri (Love). The second part of his career is characterised by longer songs which demand close reading and interpretation – for example the beautiful and tragic Akk win ikhdaâ rebbi (Be cursed).

Recordings[edit]

Yenna-d Umghar (The Wise Man Has Spoken) is characterised by more complex music and a much more careful presentation of lyrics in Kabyle, French and Arabic with a brief summary in English. The Lounis of Yenna-d Umghar is a far cry from the Lounis of the early work which is now quite hard to come by. The Lounis of Yenna-d Umghar is more perhaps accessible to European ears, at once alien and familiar. It is indeed a beautiful work, made all the more effective once the poetry is understood. When he presented Yenna-d Umghar on 16 January 2005 at the Maison de la Culture, Tizi Ouzou, on the occasion of his 55th birthday, he said that the artist could only draw people's attention to their lives and appeal to their consciences. He added that it was still a mission and he didn't consider himself capable of bringing solutions to the problems.

The latest album is Tawriqt tacebhant - (The Blank Sheet) and was released in August 2010. The title has caused some discussion in Kabyle circles because it is only comparatively recently that Kabyle has become a written language again and many of the older generation don't read and write Kabyle though they do read and write in French. The title song talks about the struggles of writing the poem and how the poet is faced with a blank sheet, he is scared that Inspiration (which is personified) will not meet him on the page. Resigned to failure, he goes outside and finds himself thinking about the nature of his task and he realises that actually what he wants to say is there, he just has to do it. He returns to the blank page and writes the poem which he leaves as an inspiration to everyone else. Whenever we start a new task that we find daunting, the poem will be there as inspiration and guidance.

Tawriqt tacebhant was to contain a Kabyle version of Bob Dylan's Blowin' in the Wind. However, versions of the CD circulating in the UK at least, contained the lyrics to the Kabyle version but not the song itself.

Poetry[edit]

Despite the fact that Lounis continues to sing about the plight of Kabylie, his poetry has universality that transports it beyond the topical protest song to something far more enduring. He talks of situations and conflicts which are only too familiar to those outside of Kabylie. He may indeed be a poet for Kabylie but his poetry is at the same time universal and enduring.[citation needed] He incorporates folklore into his songs, using the traditions of the past to make comments about the state of society. For example, in urğğaγ win turğğa teryel (I await the one the ogress waits for) he uses the story of Ali and the Ogress to express comments about the nature of love.

Discography[edit]

Year Kabyle Title French Title English Translation
1975 Telt yam Trois jours Three Days
1976 Anida teğğam mmi Où avez-vous laissé mon fils Where you left my son
1977 Amajahad Le martyre the martyr
1978 Aεṭar
1979 Ay agu Oh nuage O fogue
1981 A lmus-iw Mon sabre My sword
1982 Eṭes eṭes Dors, dors Sleep, sleep
1983 A mmi Oh Mon fils O my son
1984 Eğğet-iyi Laissez-moi Leave me
1986 Asefru Le poème The Poem
1987 Les années d'or (4 volumes The Golden Years (4 albums)
1989 Acimi Pourquoi ? Why?
1990 Avriḍ n ṭemzi (tirga n ṭemzi) Chemin de jeunesse (rêves de jeunesse) The way of youth (dreams of youth)
1992 A kwen-ixḍaε Rebbi Que Dieu vous maudisse Be Cursed
1993 Awal Le Mot The Word
1995 Imining g iḍ Le Voyageur de Nuit Traveller of the Night
1997 Siwel-iyi-d tamacahut Raconte-moi une histoire Tell me a story
1999 Inagan (Tiregwa) Témoins (Ruisseaux) Witness (Streams)
2002 Inasen Dis leur Tell them
2005 Yenna-d wemγar Le sage a dit The wise-man said
2010 Tawriqt Tacevhant La Feuille Belle The Beautiful Sheet

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2014 Isefra Les poemes Poems

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2017 Tudert nni Cette vie That life

Bibliography[edit]

  • Tassadit Yacine, « Aït Menguellet chante », Préface de Kateb Yacine, Paris, la Découverte, 1989.
  • Mohammed Djellaoui, « L’image poétique dans l’œuvre de Lounis Aït Menguellet - Du patrimoine à l’innovation » (Essai) - Éditions Les Pages Bleues, Alger, 2005.

External links[edit]

The official website of Lounis Ait Menguellet: http://www.aitmenguellet.net/