Lounès Matoub (Berber Latin: Lwennas Meɛṭub, Tifinagh: often credited as Matoub Lounès in French sources) (January 24, 1956 – June 25, 1998) was a famous Kabyle singer who was a prominent advocate of the Berber cause and secularism in Algeria throughout his life.
He is revered as a hero and martyr in Kabylie but reviled by most of the Arab population in Algeria for his irreligion and blasphemous songs (like Allahu Akbar) and his militant advocacy of Berber rights, therefore unpopular among both warring parties during Algerian Civil War. His assassination, in circumstances which remain unclear, provoked violent riots in Kabylie.
Matoub began his singing career under the patronage of the established Kabyle singer Idir. He recorded his first album Ay Izem (The Lion) in 1978; it was a phenomenal success. He went on to record 36 albums, as well as writing songs for other artists. He gave his first major concert in April 1980, at the time of the “Berber Spring” protest movement in Kabylie.
His music mixes oriental Chaabi orchestration with politicized Berber (Tamazight) lyrics, and covers a broad variety of topics including the Berber cause, democracy, freedom, religion, Islamism, love, exile, memory, history, peace and human rights. Unlike the Amazigh poet/musicians who preceded him, Matoub’s style was direct and confrontational. Fellow musician Moh Aileche recalls, “He went straight. He criticized a president. He mentioned the president of Algeria right at the beginning of his career. He goes black and white. He was very, very clear in his songs, and he is the only singer – not only Algeria, but in all of North Africa – who criticized the government and criticized clearly. He would never become afraid.” Despite being banned from Algerian radio and television, Matoub became, and remains, an extremely popular Kabyle singer.
During riots in October 1988, Matoub was shot five times by a policeman and left for dead. He was hospitalised for two years, requiring 17 operations including the insertion of an artificial sacrum and the contraction of his leg by 5 cm. His 1989 album L’Ironie du sort describes his long convalescence.
During the civil war, which began in 1992, the Islamist Armed Islamic Group (GIA) added his name to a hit list of artists and intellectuals. Matoub remained in Algeria. On 25 September 1994 he was abducted. He was held for two weeks in a GIA mountain stronghold and condemned to death. He was released following a large public demonstration in which his supporters threatened “total war” on the Islamists.
Edited by Imazighen on 23 Nov 2007, 04:31
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