Cherif Kheddam was born in 1927 at Ait Bou Messaoud in Grand Kabylia. First he attended a local Koranic school, then a Zawia in Boudjelil (Lesser Kabylia). In 1947 he left Algeria for France where, until the end of Algeria’s War of Independence, he earned his living in smelting works and other factories.
Fully aware that a musical heritage fenced in petrified traditions must sooner or later become anaemic, he has always tried to enrich and revive it without defacing its century old specificity. He is to be thanked for opening a field for modernity, yet he has always insisted upon the necessity of meeting strict requirements in the process of creation, an approach he instilled into the mind of the many young singers he has formed. A number of the singers who presently sing modern songs have been taught by him and are proud to be considered his disciples. Some of them are known for singing those amazigh songs that fight for certain ideas: the Yugurten ensemble, Ferhat Imazighen Imoula, Idir, Ait Menguellet, Malika Doumrane, Nouara, Ahcen Abassi...
In his songs, words and music are closely linked. Forgetting about the mournfulness common in songs of yesteryear, he has imagined, and methodically explored, all new poetic and musical ways. It is easy to detect the revolutionary themes in the more than one hundred songs he is known to have written.
His work is grounded on four main themes closely linked in the poet’s mind: love, the native land, social changes and the promoting of Kabyle particularism. One might have expected that since he was born in a traditional family, he would keep to conventional songs with moral and religious connotations. Now it so happens that the poet has ventured beyond the traditional ways, transgressing century old tabooes. To him there are no forbidden subjects any longer.
Either sticking to tradition, or following modern trends, Cherif Kheddam has innovated all his life. In combining tradition and modernity he has gradually achieved a meaningful coherence, his specific creation. Thus, in his lifetime, Cherif Kheddam has already become one of the great ancestors whose office it was, on the one side to hand down the musical heritage, and on the other side to venture beyond it to find new ways.
part of the text written by Tassadit Yacine in December 1995
or in 3 languages
this collection of songs of the patriarch of chanson Kabyle,originally released as 45s
is a hidden ,under its indifferent sleeve, treasure -at times stepping on oriental scales
and deeply infused with unique Kabylian soul.
keep it alive with listening