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Slimane Azem (September 19, 1918 - January 31, 1983) is an Algerian singer and poet, originally from Kabylia, that has composed hundreds of songs in more than 40 years of artistic life. A great connoisseur and admirer of the poet Si Mohand, Slimane Azem has included in his songs different isefra by this author.
Slimane Azem was born September 19, 1918 at Agouni Gueghrane, a small village located on the foothills of Djurdjura. Nothing predestined this son of a poor farmer to a musical career. A rather mediocre student, he had a passion for the La Fontaine's Fables that will influence his writings and compositions. At the age of 11, he became a farm worker for a colon in Staouéli, a small resort near Algiers (on the beach took place the French landing in 1830). In 1937, he landed at Longwy as part of the Service du travail obligatoire and found work in a steel mill operation before being mobilized during the "Phoney War" in Issoudun. In 1940, he was discharged and went to Paris where he was hired as an assistant electrician in the Paris Métro. In 1942, Slimane is in Paris. The capital fascinates him and yet the work is hard. He who is accustomed to live in the village in the great outdoors, is now confined in tunnels and underground eight hours a day on the subway. Two years later, he underwent deportation by German troops in the Rhineland and remains there until its release in 1945, by the Americans.
Undergoing death threats during the independence of Algeria, the singer was forced to move to France in 1962. He then becomes a legendary voice that Algerians expatriates can only listen on Radio Paris in his quart d’heure kabyle (fifteen minutes Kabyle daily) show. Azem was, in fact, banned from airing in his own country and his music circulated only clandestinely, his name could only be read in lowercase in brief, daily of his country. In 1970 he was awarded with the singer Noura, a gold disc imposing it as one of the best French sales. He becomes at the same time that famous French stars, member of the SACEM. In Paris, he won a stewardship coffee in the 15th arrondissement. He took the opportunity to interpret there his first compositions. Noticed and encouraged by Mohamed El Kamel, former member of Bachtarzi ensemble (named after Mahieddine Bachtarzi), he perseveres in singing. Slimane finally recorded his first album with the song A muh muh has. Dealing with homesickness, his records will be highly sought at Madame Sauviat, the only record store that sold at that time albums of Maghrebi and Oriental artists. This woman, of Auvergne origin, whose heirs now keep the shop on Boulevard de la Chapelle, presents Slimane to the record company Pathé-Marconi.
During the '70s, he made comic duets with the famous Cheikh Nouredine and sings in French Algérie, mon beau pays (Algeria, my beautiful country) and Carte de Résidence (Residence Card). Over the recordings, Slimane Azem conquered a wide community audience through his lyrics parables where he staged animals and arises as a singer politically engaged. Then his inspiration declines.
He would later write a song in tribute to the Berber Spring, Ɣef Teqbaylit yuli was (On Kabylia rises the day).
He never denied his peasant roots and spent much of his earnings in buying a farm in Moissac (Tarn-et-Garonne), where he spent six months a year growing his nostalgia in his fig and olive trees plantations. Slimane feared death in exile. It occured a January 28, 1983 on his farm.
Since 2008, the city of Moissac decided to honor the ancient Berber singer giving a town square that bears his name. In December 2013, the city of Paris decided to honor him too with a square in the 14th arrondissement. The plate was not visible however until 2014.
- Awine yelane dhel fahem (1970)
- 173 songs recorded (see: catalog of published works at SACEM)
- A Muh A Muh
- Awine yelane dhel fahem
- Effɤ ay ajrad tamurt-iw (Grasshoppers leave my country), covered in 1995 by Lounès Matoub.
- Ɣef Teqbaylit yuli was
- La carte de résidence
- Algérie mon beau pays
- Nacib, Youssef (2002) (in French). Slimane Azem Le poète. Paris: PUBLISUD. p. 713.
- Azem, Slimane (1984) (in French). Izlan - Recueil De Chants Kabyles. Paris: Numidie Music. p. 184.
- Ahmed, Mehdi (2002) (in French). Slimane Azem, Le maître de la chanson berbère. Tizi Ouzou: Édition Mehdi. p. 383.
- Max Lagarrigue,Près de 250 personnes ont honoré le chanteur Slimane Azem, La Dépêche du Midi, 3 novembre 2008.