For as long as he can remember, Akli D. was surrounded by music in the little village in Kabylia, Algeria, where he was born. His mother, a traditional folk singer, used to sing him to sleep, and the rest of his family is very musical. He played in his first concert at the age of 13, in the school show of his native village in Kabylia. From then on, he decided never to let go of his guitar, which has become his passport, allowing him to travel the world meeting people, like a modern troubadour.
He listened to popular Kabyl singers, like Idir, Cheikh El Hasnaoui et Slimane Azem, but lent an attentive ear to Neil Young’s and Bob Dylan’s protest songs, to Jacques Higelin’s wacky rock, to the Rasta movement, to the Mississipi Blues and to the echoes of the m’balax.
He arrived in France in the early 80′s, fleeing a bitter Algeria, which was repressing Kabylia’s demands for recognition.The Ã‚Â« Berber Spring Ã‚Â», marked by the army’s repression, resulted in tens of deaths and hundreds of political prisoners.
Akli was an involved witness in these events and had to go into exile. He arrived in Paris on a fine summer day, with little money in his pockets and the addresses of a few other Algerians.
He had few illusions and was aware of the difficulties that lay before him, and he decided that spending time with interesting people would broaden his horizons. Walking around Beaubourg in Paris one day, he borrowed a street musician’s banjo and tried his hand at playing that for a while. That started a long period of playing on public squares and in the Parisian metro. Little by little, he tried out many different musical genres: blues, rock, reggae, folkÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ all of which later influenced his compositions.
Every penny saved went towards building his dream: cinema ! His passion for films led him to take an Actor’s Studio course at the CafÃƒÂ© de la Danse in Paris, when Ã‚Â« mektoub Ã‚Â» (destiny) put an American patron into his path, and he flew off to America. He landed in San Francisco, the city of creative audacity, and surprised audiences at the Cafe Internationale and other clubs with melodies previously unknown in the US. He then went on to Ireland, which turned out to be just as fascinating as his American experience but more familiar musically.
Back in Paris and with a head full of artistic treasures, he accompanied two charming female singers in a chaÃƒÂ¢bi-saharian blues combo called Ã‚Â« El Djazira Ã‚Â», then went on to form his first group, called Ã‚Â« Les Rebeuhs des Bois Ã‚Â». This enabled him to play in several underground places in Paris and elsewhere. He circulated among cafes and clubs of various styles, like Ã‚Â« La guinguette Pirate Ã‚Â», the cafÃƒÂ© Ã‚Â« La LibertÃƒÂ© Ã‚Â» and the Ã‚Â« Le Lou Pascalou Ã‚Â», in cosmopolitan neighbourhoods, where the beer flows freely.
A first album materialised from these different experiences: Ã‚Â« Anef-as Trankil Ã‚Â», produced live. The low-fi aspect is compensated by very personal compositions reflecting his background: Folk-Country music from Kabylia and ChaÃƒÂ¢bi (a typical style from the Algerian suburbs), but open to life and to others, like his brothers on the black continent, the reggae planet and the Chicago delta. The record has been critically acclaimed for its originality and is enjoyed by audiences in both France and the Kabyl community. It is Important to note that this was a major step for the Kabyls, who were getting bored by the usual uniform music (often repetitive pieces with derbouka and mandol).
“The tradition of the Kabyl poet”
Akli D has chosen to set up his haven in Paris, in a typical Menilmontant cafÃƒÂ©, one of the last “apache” strongholds of the capital. This cafÃƒÂ© is one of the rare places in which spontaneous encounters happen, where people pick up guitars, bendirs and derboukas and jam all night long. Akli D finds the atmosphere typical of the gnawas of Central Africa, a Berber people like the Kabyls.
When in Paris, Manu Chao also hangs out in these cafÃƒÂ©s. He soon picked out this artist who read his Kabyl poetry over folk, gypsy-jazz and ChaÃƒÂ¢bi music. Their meeting turned into an artistic collaboration when Manu came to the recording of the new album. He was immediately entranced and offered to produce Akli D’s album. Manu Chao discovered Akli D and saw his potential. This close friendship, founded on music, helped them produce a more elaborate, studied album than the first one, but still keeping the natural spontaneity and sincerity of the artist.
“Akli D., a politically engaged artist?”
He is involved in actions like aid to Chechen orphans, the fight for registration of illegal immigrants, the battle of Algerian women against the family code, and generally every cause that touches this troubadour, concerned about the difficulties of his times (from the North African march in which he participated in 1985 when he was a young immigrant, to the student demonstrations and Malik Oussekin’s “Death Theatre”)Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ his commitment inspired him to write songs like Ã‚Â« Tchetchenia Ã‚Â», Ã‚Â« Malik Ã‚Â», Ã‚Â«Salam Ã‚Â», Ã‚Â« Ar Paris Ã‚Â». His new album is rich in racial mixtures. The lyrics speak of peace, fraternity and love. His first album had a cultural identity; this one has a more human identity, backed by an outsized, engrossing musical universe.