Interview with Abdalah BOUZANDAG from Tafsut band in Agadir

Abdalah BOUZANDAG

Abdalah BOUZANDAG, is a young Amazigh artist, born in the region of the Anti Atlas Mountains, he carried out his primary studies in Tagant (a village close to Guelmim) and secondary studies in Bouizakarn (the same region) and obtained his license in 2005 at the University of Agadir, English Department. He is an ardent defender of the Amazigh identity which has always been subject to exclusion and marginalization.
In 2004 he created with other Amazigh activists the “Tafsut Music Band� which has participated in many festivals in Morocco and Europe, and won the prize of “collective creation� in a competition organized by Timitar festival in Agadir. The band carries a message of hope, tolerance, justice, human rights and stresses Moroccan particularity while being open to different music styles.
The following interview sheds more light on the singer and the poet of the Tafsut Music Band; Abdallah BOUZANDAG.

1-So what is the reason behind choosing the name “Tafsut� which means spring in Amazigh ?

In fact this name has a special significance in the Amazigh struggle throughout North Africa since it symbolizes the beginning of Amazigh activism in Algeria. “Tafsut n Imazighen�(Amazigh Spring) is a historical event that marked the history of Amazigh struggle to recognize the Amazigh cultural rights. It all started when Mouloud Maamari, who is one of the founders of MCB in 1980 in Algeria, was preparing a conference on Amazigh old poetry which he was going to give in the University of Tizi-ouzzou in 1980 but the government banned it. The Amazigh reaction was historical; the students went out in demonstrations against the government and then other constituents of the Kabyle society joined the students in their demonstrations which were violently oppressed by the government forces. This event had influences on the other parts of Algeria and Morocco which knew the same movement. “Tafsut n Imazighn� became then a symbolic date which is celebrated every year on April 20th. It is also celebrated at the same time in Morocco. At the University of Agadir and other universities, “Tafsut n Imazighen� is celebrated each year. Since my entrance to the university I participated and contributed to the organization of this symbolic celebration, On the 20th April 2004 Tafsut n Imazighn in Agadir knew a violent intervention against our peaceful demonstration; the police arrested and injured many students after we went out of the university and that is when a new “Tafsut n Imazighen� in Agadir was born. In these circumstances we held the first meetings of the first members of our new band which we named Tafsut in the memory of this event.

2-And why did you choose to sing in the Souss variety of the Amazigh language?

I sing in all Amazigh varieties, by the way, I have a new song in the Rif variety of the Amazigh language written by the Amazigh activist and poet Khaled Almansouri from Rif region. I also sing the Amazigh songs of Kabylia, like Matoub s songs (Aghuru), Idir, Takfarinas…Moreover, in the competitions of Studio 2M I participated with the famous Idir s song “Avava Innova� which I learned by heart but as you know I was racially excluded. I also sing in the other languages of the world like English, Spanish and French…One of our songs (Tilelli/Freedom) is in 4 languages: Tamazight, French, Spanish and English, through this song we try to say no to the tragedy that our people live and express what we feel and talk about our lives in general using the maximum of languages so that we can be understood by other people. Nevertheless, the majority of our songs are in Souss variety, our native language.

3-Tafsut also attempts to revive and modernize the Amazigh music and songs by introducing new music styles along with keeping the particularity of Amazigh music, according to you what distinguishes your music style? And who are the artists who have inspired you?

Our band is known as a particular band that endeavors to have its own stamp; somehow we managed to realize that. We try to introduce western rhythms and music to enrich Amazigh music, we don t like to be classified as Ethnic or Fusion but we want to attract the attention of the people to this culture and arts (Amazigh) which are very important and which can be considered as a human patrimony in need of promotion and revitalization. In our music although we are still “beginners� in this field we want to change the vision of the people to this music trying to valorize it by showing it in a modernized way. Concerning the artists who inspired me, I can say that I am influenced by the great AMOURI M barek who is my favorite Amazigh artist. Moreover, he is one of the best musicians in Morocco but unfortunately our media still marginalizes Amazigh artists and still presents them in a folkloric way. I am also influenced by Idir, Richard Marx, Tracy Chapman…

4-How did your mastery of the English language help you in pursuing your artistic path?

Since I was a student in English department at the university I used to listen to the famous English songs, and learned by heart many songs and I sing them on my own. Then it is normal that these songs would influence my artistic style. Besides that English helped me to communicate with many artists and many social and cultural activists around the world.

5-Your songs carry a message of hope, tolerance and indignation which is manifested in songs such as “Amezruy� and your multilingual song “Tileli�? So do you think that one can better defend a cause through art and music?

Yes of course, I imagine how Tamazight can be in Algeria without Lounes MATOUB, and how MATOUB can be without music. He used music as a peaceful tool to make people conscious of their identity and their rights, such as the right to have their identity and language officialized since Imazighen are citizens who have rights and obligations. Matoub used to talk to his people using a language that goes from the heart. Music is a very dangerous tool which can be easily understood and felt by people. That s the reason why we make use of it to wake up our people to say no to the intimidation of the Amazigh and no to the marginalization of Tamazight, and yes to real democracy which takes into consideration our economic and cultural rights.

6-“Tafsut� was also invited to participate in a concert organised by the Mediterranean Social Forum in Barcelona in june 2005, the Tafsut members have also participated in the festival of Amazigh Culture in Lille, France the same year . What can you tell us about that experience?

Really a very important experience, our concerts in the two European towns were good and we won the respect of the audience there. Moreover, we also participated in the Social Forum as cultural activists and we had the chance to meet activists from all around the Mediterranean coast.

7- Since you came back from that trip in 2005 we noticed that the guitarists of the group disappeared and Tafsut was joined by new musicians, what happened to the old guitarists?

The old guitarists choose to stay in Europe, while I choose to come back to my country. Indeed, we, as youth, go through many problems. But I don t think that leaving is a good solution, I think the good solution is to stay and struggle for our dignity and identity. So when I came back I called other guitarists to join the band, and now the success of Tafsut band is due to our collective efforts (Guitarists, Singer/songwriter, bassist, Keyboard, Drummer…).

8-Last year I read an article in the internet entitled “Bouzandag: ma mésaventure avec studio 2M� in which you expressed your resentment against that show and accused its directors of excluding you because you sing in Amazigh, so what happened exactly and did you participate in the 2007 edition of that show ?

Concerning the 2007 edition I did not participate .But, in our association Abaraz (an artistic association in Agadir) we called other people to participate with songs in the Amazigh language to test again this channel. And as we have expected our Amazigh language was excluded again and this time Abderrahman Eljoussali, another Amazigh artist, was excluded because he choose to sing in the historical and indigenous language of Morocco. So we organized a sit in to protest against this unfair treatment marked by the systematic marginalization of our Amazigh music and art in the Moroccan official TV which we sponsor by the taxes that we pay, the police intervened to oppress our outrageous voices. The exclusion Amazigh artists face in this TV show and in other TV programs is so reminiscent of my elimination from the so called “studio 2M� last year simply because I choose to sing in the Amazigh language, the aim of my participation was to show the racist attitude of this TV channel clearly to the people who don t believe that we are facing a daily racism through our TVs.

9-You are also preparing your Master in Amazigh culture at the University of Ibn Zohr in Agadir, what do you think about this first initiative in a Moroccan university? And can you give us more insight about the curriculum and the aims of your Master s and also about the conditions of your studies at the University of Agadir?

Concerning the Master s in Amazigh culture, it is a good initiative from some Amazigh activists at the University of Agadir; they realized that thanks to the efforts of the Amazigh movement and the Amazigh activism. When I heard about it I rushed to deposit my file of application and I succeeded in the admission exam afterwards. It is very important for me because being an artist/activist and at the same time a high university degree holder is a great thing for me. The curriculum of the Amazigh Master s is rich and very important since we are formed by many competent professors known for their academic good works. We are carrying out important studies. For example we work on the morphology of Amazigh language and we make efforts so as to collect the Amazigh oral literature…

10-I will also give you some more questions about the Amazigh issue since you are an active member of Tamaynut organization which is one of the largest Amazigh cultural associations with branches in many Moroccan and European cities, so what do you think about the standardization of the Amazigh language?

Standardization is a very important step towards the officialization of this language, it is a difficult and dangerous duty, we must be careful in this operation since we are working on an oral language which was subject to development and whose written heritage is rare but still it is a strong and ancient language that have lasted for a long time. But I am not satisfied with the way the government treats this question, Tamazight language is introduced to school about 5 years ago, but it is not generalized or standardized until now? The work on standardization in theory is going fast and good but practically things are not going as the Amazigh activists want. Even in the media Tamazight lives in the same situation except some Amazigh TV programs which are broadcasted in an inappropriate time.

And after 5 years of adopting the “Tifinagh� script in writing the Amazigh language, do you think it was the right decision?
Now I think this question must be forgotten, it was a mistake, a historic one, but we have to cope with this reality even if the decision was taken against Amazigh movement will. The use of Tifinagh script in school and media is a reality now and we have to treat other problems and skip this one since the accumulation with Tifinagh script is growing and the future generations will read and write in Tifinagh since they study it in schools. Now other issues must be held and discussed like the question of standardization of the Amazigh language and its constitutional recognition…

11- Do you think that the government is sincere in its promises to integrate the Amazigh language and culture in the media and the educational system?
The answer of course is NO, the government waits until the Amazigh movement moves and protests then it takes a new decision, Tamazight is a question that needs a strong and sincere political decision, what they call now Amazigh integration in Media is fake and mere lies. In fact, there is a slight change in the programs of the audiovisual media, but the Amazigh movement asks for equality in all fields between Arabic and Amazigh, the language of at least half of the Moroccan society.
12-Now let me give you some more notions and tell me what they represent to you in brief?

- Argan tree?
The symbol of the deep rooted Amazigh identity

- Congres Mondial Amazigh?
International Amazigh Rights Organization

- The Arab league?
A mistaken name for a mistaken organization.

-Mohamed Khair-Eddine?
An Amazigh, who wrote in the language of the French colonizer, but never forgot his being-Amazigh.

-2007 parliamentary elections?
Another joke of the 21st century.

13-what are the obstacles that have prevented you from releasing your album? And what are your future artistic plans?

Our album is ready to be released but it is waiting for the producers to commercialize it. As you know, in Morocco it is very hard for a band to be known and to realize an album, but we are patient and this dream will be realized in a year thanks to the help of the Tafsut funs and friends like Khadya Azalam in the Tamaynut Nederland www.tamaynut.nl who helped us to create our website www.tafsutmusic.com, and many others who believe in Tafsut dream like the organization of “Tamaynut Dcheiraâ€? … Concerning our plans, now we work hard to finish the 8 songs we created so that they will be ready for recording and we prepare ourselves to participate in summer festivals.

At the end thank you very much for answering all my questions and for your patience as well. I wish you the best of luck in your artistic and educational career.

Official Web site of Tafsut Music Band:
http://www.tafsutmusic.com

Interviwed by : Ahmed El Jechtimi

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