Thursday, March 07, 2019

Some Algerian protest songs

What's going on right now in Algeria is fascinating - and difficult to get a full sense of from abroad even if you speak Arabic and French, let alone if you're relying on English-language media. The lyrics of the protest movements - whether composed for the occasion or just reused for it - may offer some interesting perspectives. Unfortunately this brief selection can't claim any particular representativity; these are just a couple of apparently popular ones that have crossed my path.

Starting with what a Marxist might call the urban proletariat of Algiers, we have a USMA football fans' song which outlines the basic issue:

ساعات للفجر وماجاني نوم Hours to dawn and I still haven't slept,
راني نكونصومي غير بالشوية I'm taking drugs, but only little by little;
اشكون السبة واشكون نلوم Who's the cause, who should I blame?
ملّينا المعيشة هاديّا We're fed up* with this life.

في الاّولى نقولوا جازت In the first [presidential term], we'd say it's fine;
حشاوهالنا بالعشرية They filled our heads with the decade [of civil war].
في التانية الحكاية بانت In the second, the story became clear -
لا كاسا دالمورادية La Casa d'El Mouradia [the Presidential residence].
في التالتة البلاد شيانت In the third, the country got thin
بالمصالح الشخصية thanks to private interests...
في الرابعة الپوپيّة ماتت In the fourth, the doll died [ie the president became too unwell to appear in public]
ومازالت القضيّة And the situation continued.

[chorus again]

والخامسة راهي تسويڥي And the fifth is following on,
بيناتهُم راي مبنية It's been set up between them;
والپاصي راو آرشيڥي And the past is archived,
لاڥوا تاع الحرُّيّة The voice of freedom.
ڥيراجنا الهدرة پريڥي Our corner** is [a place for] private talk,
يعرفوه كي يتقيّا They know it/him when he vomits;
مدرسة ولازم سيڥي A school where you need a CV,
بيرو محو الأمّيّة An anti-illiteracy office.
Looking at this as a linguist, there's an interesting contrast between the first and second stanzas; the first is basically in normal Algerian Arabic, but the second uses some very striking French loanwords - some imposed by the rhyme in -ivi, several not. For discussion of similar stylistic devices in medieval Andalusi poetry and late 20th century Algerian rai, see Davies and Bentahila 2008.

Moving on towards the more rah-rah end of the scale, we have "Win Win Win", showing obvious Middle Eastern influence in its form and substantial Standard Arabic influence in its Algerian Arabic. It starts:

وين وين وين؟ وين بيها وين؟ Where where where? Where with it, where?
وين وين وين؟ وين رانا رايحين؟ Where where where? Where are we going?
عيبنا فاح وطننا راح ضاع بين الرجلين، Our shame has festered, our homeland is gone, lost between the legs;
دمنا ساح والمشعل طاح، ماصابش اليدّين، Our blood has flowed, the torch has fallen, it found no hands [to carry it];
ضحّكتو علينا الاجناس وراكو فرحانين You've made the peoples laugh at us, and you're happy about it.

جزاير أرض الحُرّيّة ماتوا عليها رجال Algeria is the land of freedom, for which men have died.
رجال ونسا حاربوا بالنية وجابوا الاستقلال Men and women fought with right intention and brought independence.
ادّيتو الحُكْم بالبُندُقية خُنتوهم يا انذال You people took power at gunpoint and betrayed them, you wretches;
باسم الشرعية الثورية خلفتوا الاحتلال In the name of revolutionary legitimacy you succeeded the occupation.
On the more hipster/"lachichi" end, Jidal showcases a group of artists from Algiers working together to make a worthy but rather forced protest song, guitars, dreadlocks, melodramatic handcuffs and all. The lyrics are mainly in Algerian Arabic, with a stanza or two in Berber, but the refrain is in French ("Libérez l'Algérie", Free Algeria).

يمّا كتّريلنا الدعاوي Mother, pray for us a lot,
ولادك راهُم خارجين Your sons are going out
يمشيوا على الحُرّيّة To walk for freedom***;
يمّا ولادك متحضّرين Mother, your sons are acting civilised,
طالبين ديمُقراطية Asking for democracy -
هاك الورْد زيد الياسمين Here are roses, throw in jasmine - [demonstrators have been giving roses to the police]
في مسيرة سلمية In a peaceful demonstration
عالتغيير معوّلين Bent on change.
الشعب est libéré - The people is free,
Libérez l'Algérie; - Free Algeria;
Libérez, libérez, - Free, free,
Libérez l'Algérie. - Free Algeria.

* Edited: was "tired".
** Edited, thanks to Imad's comment.
*** Fixed.


Alexander said...

"Win Win Win" is clearly a riff on Julia Boutros's classic song of the Palestinian intifada, "وين الملايين."

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

That's certainly one reference point; I'd say it fits into a broader genre of Palestinian "anasheed" popular in some circles in Algeria, but I'm having trouble tracking down the best matches.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

And if you want to hear the chorus of the first song sung in unison by thousands-strong crowds of protesters:

Imad said...

Lameen, thank you for such an informative post. It is true that English-speaking news give a very shallow understanding of what is happening in Algeria. Just a small precision, in the translation of the song " la casa del mouradia", the "virage" in the part that says "virajna hadra privi" actually refers to the corner of the stadium where the ultra supporters club always sit.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Thanks! I could not figure that out. Shows you how much of a football fan I am :) Fixed it.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

La Casa d'El Mouradia sung en masse by demonstrators in Bordj Bou Arreridj. (Not sure why the yellow jackets...) Revolution as festival :)

Unknown said...

thank you for your work!!!