Idir, a musical superstar hailing from Algeria is credited as being one of forces behind the surge of urban ra?Ø music. Moroccan Chaabi singer Najat Aatabou has changed the face of Moroccan music with her powerful lyrics and compositions in both French and English. We caught up with both artists recently to speak about their trip to America
On the eve of their prestigious Lincoln Center in New York City, which will welcome the sounds of Northern Africa this summer, we hear from two of the region’s most popular singers: Idir and Najat Aatabou.
What do you hope to share about the Imazighen people and Berber culture in America?
I want to get people to see what our music is about and who represents this culture.
You’ve done many hip hop collaborations with younger artists- why has it been important for you to connect with the younger generations?
I have teenagers myself, I think it’s important to support the younger generations and give them an opportunity to collaborate with artists they grew up with and for some [to] connect with their Algerian culture. The last album La France des Couleurs was a concept [where] I wanted to show the diversity of France and its richness through music.
How do you feel about performing at Lincoln Center, and what do you most look forward to about being in New York?
I am very pleased to perform at an institution like Lincoln Center. I am eager to connect with my audience there for the first time, who are looking forward to hearing all my classics and [also to] connect with a new American audience and try to share my world with them.
What made you want to become a singer and who are your musical influences?
I did not think I would become one- I was to become a lawyer. I sang for my own pleasure not even dreaming it could go further, but someone recorded me and I became famous when the song kept being played. So I thought maybe this is what I was born to do. I am influenced by all traditional North African music and also blues.
Have you faced any challenges throughout the course of your career as a Chaabi singer?
As a Berber woman singer, I did. This was not expected of me [and] I had to leave my family and move to the city. I thought God gave me this gift to spread messages to the world through music.
Your song “J’en ai marre” was an international hit. Why do you think it was so successful and why was it important for you to sing a song about the frustrations of women in your culture?
I think it was such a hit because women could relate (‘I had enough’), in our society and many others women are not often considered for their skills and are not given an opportunity to speak out. I wanted women to feel that they were not alone and [that]I was feeling their pain too. I was reading my fan mail and they were so happy that someone finally expressed what they had been feeling the entire time.
What excited you most about this American tour in New York and Chicago?
I never came to perform in the US. I know the Moroccan communities are strong in NY, Orlando and Chicago. I hope to make them happy while on stage and give back the love they have given me.
“A Night in the Maghreb” will take place on Saturday, July 18 in New York City at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall.