I remember my first encounter with Slimane Azem. It was in the 80s, I was a boy and my parents used to listen to him. His music was banned in Algeria (like some other Kabyle singers) and the audio tapes we had were smuggled in the country by the Kabyles living in France.
To me Azem is the equivalent in Kabyle music to Dahmane El Harrachi. His lyrics were always full of wisdom which he usually put in animals’ mouths (he was apparently a fan of La Fontaine). But Azem’s music was mainly about the immigrants’ life and issues: exile, residence card, alcohol’s bad effects, love of the mother country, etc.Slimane Azem left Algeria in 1962 after rumours on him being a traitor (all his village was accused of collaborating with the French) but I cannot believe it. I discovered recently that his brother, Ouali Azem, was a “French” politician and probably believed in l’Algérie Française.
Anyway, Slimane Azem died in 1983 in France (the idea of dying in exile haunted him just like it haunts most of us Algerians living abroad). He’s buried in France too as the Algerian power then refused his repatriation.
He sang in Kabyle, Arabic and French. Some of his songs are elwaqth agheddar, lahvav nelwaqtha, ayafrukh ifirelless, Algérie mon beau pays, tamurthiw athin a3zizen, effegh a yajradh tamurthiw (how could a traitor sing this!), A si Mouh u Mhend, etc. Here you will find some of his songs’ lyrics in Kabyle and here is a site dedicated to him.