retour / back

Dirty Linen, #101, August/September 2002

Yuba writes and sings in the dominant tongue of the Southern (The Sus) and Western Atlas Mountains, in a Tamazight language dialect called Tashelhit. When the French colonized much of North Africa, native Tashelhit got corrupted and became widely known to European scholars and linguists as Chleuh. But its oral literature goes back to the ancient classical period of Mediterranean culture, and exists in mountain and desert clans, spread by now through urbanization into the coastal cities as well as the massive emigrant and exiled diaspora.

Yuba's verse is a melismatic buzz both familiar and otherworldly. His English summaries of the songs provide rare access to the 21st century struggles of a people who, as the BBC noted in a segment on the Saharawi culture, remain like the palm in the oasis. "Gmas n ijeddigen" gets translated into French as "Frère des fleurs" but is closer in spirit to the more conceptual and less literal Anglo translation "Part of Nature." The choral harmonies swell behind Yuba's acoustic guitar, and suddenly all those Moorish elements in flamenco find their roots. But the voices betray none of the sandpapery harshness of flamenco; rather, they offer a contemplative tone with refreshing wellsprings of melody and counterpoint...

Yuba is singing in "Gmas n ijeddigen" of "affection towards our homeland/ That was and is still / Being spoiled and exploited / And even watered by the blood of its children…"

Abdellah Chafiq and M'hmed Ourby join bassist Jamal Boumadkar to flesh out the vocal harmonies. There is a distinctly liturgical cast to the choral arrangements, but the music carries' none of the creaky connotations (much less the mass-marketed clichés) of Andalusian Islamic prayer and song. When the boho-beat percussion turns like the tricky Atlantic tides spilling into the Mediterranean, Yuba's Spanish guitar flourishes to the fore. His clear and commanding vocal line in "Amarg n tafsut / Song of Spring" conveys a feeling that bridges the timeless terrain of Tamazgha (native name for El Maghreb) reaching out to tribal brethren in Algeria. It is a subtle and poetic reference to "Tafsut Imazighen / Beber Spring" that marks Kabylia's creative civil struggle born in 1980 and carried into the genocidal 1990s in the face of barbaric massacres. Yuba recorded these fresh native North African perspectives at Adyel Studios in Casablanca. However he sings in the upbeat opener "Imik s imik / Step by Step" from his current base in Germany, "My loyal vow to you / Our inaccessible identity / That we would never victimize; / To our banished and oppressed memory / I swear, I promise / We will never let you perish / Nor be forgotten."

Mitch Ritter (Concord, CA)