Singer Idir, an 'icon of Algeria' and defender of Kabyle identity, dead at 70

Switzerland France Obit Idir
Switzerland France Obit Idir Copyright SALVATORE DI NOLFI/AP
By Joël Chatreau
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Idir, whose real name is Hamid Cheriet, was taken to hospital on Friday but died a day later from pulmonary disease

Algerian singer Idir, an icon of Berber and Kabyle culture, has died aged 70.


The artist, whose real name is Hamid Cheriet, was taken to hospital in Paris on Friday but died the following evening with lung disease.

His children confirmed the death with a brief statement on his Facebook page, which said: "We regret to announce the death of our father, Idir, on Saturday, May 2 ... Rest in peace dad."

Originally from Aït Lahcène, near Tizi Ouzou, the second-most populous city in the Kabylie region of northern Algeria, a young Idir did not set out to become an artist. But a performance on Radio Alger in 1973 as a last-minute replacement for the singer Nouara changed everything.

He is best known for his lullaby in Berber, A Vava Inouva, which was inspired by songs that influenced his childhood, and has since been translated into several languages.

Idir travelled to Paris in 1975 to record his first album, also named A Vava Inouva, and continued to make his mark with music influenced by his native Kabylie culture.

Paying tribute to the singer over the weekend, Ferhat Mehenni, a singer, writer, and exiled president of the Kabylie provisional government, said he was a "Kabylie star illuminating the immensity of the universe".

Meanwhile, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune wrote on Twitter that he felt "great sadness and sorrow" at the news, and paid tribute to an "icon of Algerian art and international reputation".

He added: "With this, Algeria loses an icon."

French football star Zinédine Zidane - of Kabylie origin himself - said on Instagram: "You marked my childhood... I will never forget our meeting."

President Emmanual Macron also paid tribute in a tweet, saying the singer had performed "his Kabylie roots with the melancholy of an exile and the brotherhood of peoples with the hopes of a humanist".

"The poetry of his songs will long resonate from one side of the Mediterranean to the other."

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