L ‘Poet Lounes Ait Manqel, nicknamed the “Poet of the Century” Kateb Yacine, is a living legend in the annals of Algerian poetry and an expressive song of the Kabyles. It is he who opens the doors for the world to discover the cultural heritage of Kabyle music, soft, rhythmic, colorful and full of hope. He was the first to bring the song of tribes to the legendary Hall of the Olympia in 1978 and he will try to make the walls of the Accor Arena in Paris vibrate on November 26. Prior to this important meeting, Lounis anchored Aït Menguellet in Point Afrique.
Africa Point: After touring the major cities of Algeria, she returns to the stage at the Accor Arena in Paris on Saturday 26 November 2022 for a concert that promises to be unforgettable. I imagine it’s always a pleasure to return to the Parisian scene?
Lunis Ait Mangal: You know it has become an almost annual meeting that we introduce to each other in Paris and in other cities here in France and Canada. You mentioned this summer tour in Algeria, I was very happy to be able to share these moments of jubilation and I thank the organizers for their great work.
On November 26 at the Accor Arena in Paris, I hope it will be a moment to share the joy and hopes of humanity that is currently suffering.
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You are one of those rare singers whose works are still of interest: since you were revealed at the end of the sixties on Channel Two, RTA Kabylie Radio (Algerian Radio and Television), thanks to your song “Ma Too” (If You Cry) , your success has never wavered, with a large audience, in Algeria and elsewhere. What is the secret of this unusually long life?
If there’s a secret about how to make an artistic career, I’m certainly not the one to hold it. As the saying goes, it takes your hands to clap, and you have to ask the audience that question. I never thought of my business in terms of a profession or looked for the person to work with to create one. I am like the people I meet in my village on a daily basis. They are real and have their feet on the ground. With them, we don’t cheat, we don’t dress, we he is, Simply. Knowing I’m only one of them, I can’t pretend to wear a costume that would separate me from my identity.
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Many compare you to Brassens. Kateb Yassin describes you as “the poet of the century”. Some call you a philosopher. I’ve always been considered a script singer. How do you know yourself?
Talking about me isn’t really important, comparing me to one or the other, and telling myself that more of this or more will not change anything over time. Above all, I love the two beings you mentioned to me for what they are, true and brave. Of course, I know who I am, I know where to put my steps, and I know what I can do and what to block. What I write necessarily passes through these filters.
You are an eternal critic. Without removing you from Kabylie and Algerian society, some of your songs are a real indictment against the evils that plague these communities. Does the poet and singer have the right and duty to say everything at the risk of angering his community?
If our world had been as it should have been, I don’t think I would have allowed myself to come and alter its harmony with words. It turns out that unfortunately we are in the opposite of what should be, and that every supposed being on this earth necessarily aspires to peace, freedoms and happiness … because these are fruits that are inaccessible in a great number of countries and that we can only either dream of them, or beg them to Forever, or rise up to say them loud and clear, and sometimes to some who risk their lives, so if the words resonate with other mortals, we must not be light to guess who are those who brutalize society.
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I came to the song when the fight for identity and the Amazigh language started to gain momentum. Some attribute to you a very important role in this battle. How do you see the path they took and what is the role of the singers in your opinion in what has been achieved in this field?
The history of North Africa has always been tumultuous, and the resistance of our elders to defend our lands has always been based on what unites us. Land and language. The emergence of new media (discs, cassettes) in the oral culture has enabled North African Berber artists to make their demands heard beyond borders. The seventies of the last century for all peoples were years of demands, because no human being can accept not being recognized in his being on the land in which he was born.
Everywhere, indigenous peoples have been stripped of their land and identity, and this is simply unimaginable, unacceptable and unbearable. Sometimes it’s hard to be at home, so a madman gets up and dressed as a clown to tell superstitious tyrants of all the harm they are doing to their people.
In some of your songs, we detect a certain universality of your messages. As in the songs “Ali Dolly” and “Ammi”, for example. Beyond Kabylia and your own culture, what influences inspire you?
My only inspiration, I draw it from the living. Like everyone else, I breathe, eat, and sleep, like no other being on our blue planet. Therefore, for the Inuit and the Bushmen to get to know each other in what I can sing would not surprise me. We are the same people, in their beauty and ugliness, in their boldness and cowardice.
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Several books and academic works have been published about your work, which continue to raise questions among authors and researchers. How do you view this increased interest in your work?
In principle, I would caution against using words to explain other words.
I would probably rejoice with such interest in what I have been able to write if there were parallel to this in my country an abundance of scholarly, medical, philosophical, mathematical, and even political subjects. He works on subjects of interest to all mankind and makes progress after that and only then will I be full, humble, and glad to be interested in my songs.
In 2020, on the occasion of the International Day of Africa, which is celebrated on May 25, I participated in a web concert (coronavirus pandemic obligated) dedicated to African singing. This concert hosted by Youssou N’Dour witnessed the participation of a group of African and international artists. What does Africa represent to you?
Our continent is accumulating significant delays in many areas. Rarely is the reality of its inhabitants. Africa suffers from the richness of its soil and from the wickedness of the so-called “developed” countries and their patrons.
Of course our songs from North to South speak of our suffering, our uneasiness, our thirst for freedom and recognition. However, our continent was the cradle of humanity, and it will never leave it.
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Like the song “Die”, it often pays tribute to women in particular. In this text, she depicts the position of women developing in a patriarchal society while at the same time showing them respect and appreciation and encouraging men to do the same. Is it important for you to get rid of these mindsets that are at the root of the difficulties that many women and girls have to face in society?
If you have to honor women, this isn’t a song, but it’s all their musical repertoire. First of all, to the one who gave me life, to the one who fed and taught me, to the one who gave me a home, for my daughters and granddaughters for the happiness they bring me daily.
Looking back, do you think you have been able to contribute to preserving the spirit of your culture, after such a rich artistic career?
I hope that my culture will be self-sufficient and not depend on such and such, but on all its sons and that they will make it alive, vibrating in coordination with all other nations.
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