PARIS (AP) — Idir, an Algerian singer who gave voice to the Berber and Kabyle cultures, has died in Paris. He was 70.
Saturday’s death of the singer, whose real name was Hamid Cheriet, was confirmed on a post on his official Facebook page that read “we regret to announce the passing of our father (to all), Idir. Rest in peace.”
French media report that he died from pulmonary disease after being hospitalized on Friday.
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune paid tribute to him on Twitter, saying that “with his passing, Algeria has lost one of its monuments,” and referred to him as “an icon of Algerian art.”
Idir was a national treasure in his native Algeria.
Born on Oct. 25, 1949 in Ait Lahcene, near the Kabylie capital of Tizi Ouzou and part of French Algeria at the time, he studied to be a geologist, but his life took a twist in 1973 when he was called up as a last-minute replacement on the radio to sing “A Vava Inouva.” It was a lullaby with the “rich oral traditions” of the Berber culture and became a beloved song in the country.
Idir moved to France in 1975, after finishing military service, where he recorded his first album, also titled “A Vava Inouva,” and a series of popular North African-style songs in the same decade.
The style of his music, with lone vocals and acoustic guitar, championed the sounds of Kabyle music, and as such he was widely considered an ambassador of the Kabyle culture.
The Berber-speaking Kabyle people are a sub-group of North and West Africa’s wider Berber ethnic population. In Algeria, the Kabyles are a minority that have historically been repressed by the central government and are indigenous to the north of the country, spanning the Atlas Mountains. Many Kabyle settled in France following the Algerian civil war.