AMAZIGH KATEB, Singer, performer and Musician

On stage, he burns up the stages everywhere he plays. Gumbri strapped on his chest, Amazigh Kateb Has played across in concert halls all around the world accompanied by his group Gnawa Diffusion. Now « Nedjma » author son gives an another direction to his career. Author, composer and performer,the  singer of the famous ‘Douga douga’ is  preparing a new album with Afro-Cuban colors with his new group: « Argel de la Havana ». Meeting.


Artissimo: How did you start singing?

Amazigh Kateb: The music came into my life by pure chance. When I was younger, I listened to the disks we had at home: mostly jazz and rock. When growing up, I was interested by reggae, then rai and châabi. At that time of my life, I still did not know I was going to embrace a singer-musician career. This choice came to me during my travels in southern Algeria. I spent musical evenings where I started to sing. That was a turning point.


A: What are the singers or musicians who have influenced you?

A K: In jazz: Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie … In châabi, my icon is undoubtedly Amar Ezzahi.


A: The gumbri is your favorite instrument. What does it represents for you?

A K: I had  always been fascinated by this instrument, but it seemed to me that is was out of reach. Coming back from holiday one of my former percussionists brought it with him, i twas a gift from a  luth maker. This date coincides with my birthday, my musician gave it to me in turn. I grabbed it and I played for eight hours straight. I had terrible migraines but I could not stop.


A: But what fascinates you so much in gumbri?

A K: It is an instrument that always amazes me. It’s like a whisper. Something very deep and very strong. But not only. For me the gumbri is a kind of bridge between black and North Africa. It is an identity instrument. The fact of having adopted it and made it as my main instrument is also for the love of this culture of resistance that is the Gnawa culture and all slaves cultures in general.


A: You played in a movie entitled “Now they can come.” How did you find this first cinematographic experience?

A K: Playing in a movie was a new experience to me. Actually I was not totally comfortable. Familiar with the spontaneity of the scene and the live, it was necessary to learn to compress my energy to distill it gradually. In cinema, we redone a sequence at least three times even if the first sequence looks good. A new experience that contrasts with my work as a musician and singer.


A: On your first solo album « Marchez Noir », you used texts written by your father, the famous writer Kateb Yacine. Are you going to continue to associate your work with his works?

A K : Yes, especially because there are many unpublished works. I found it interesting to mix my father’s work to mine, and I will continue on this path.


A: Are you going to still work with Gnawa Diffusion or the separation is permanently sealed?

A K: I am currently working on my new album with an another group: Algel de la Havana (Algiers of Havana). This new album will be an Afro- Cuban mix of colors. However, I also have other projects with Gnawa Diffusion. For the moment I am focusing on this new album.


A: What is the main value your father forwarded you?

A K: Never to be in the dominant side and with those who have power. This value I adopt it in all aspects of life. I never go to McDonald’s, boycotting American and Israeli products … I try to eat halal. My halal.


A: Do you think your dad will be proud of the career you are pursuing, if he was still alive?

A K: I wish I had known but  unfortunately he died before the start of my career as a singer and musician. Besides, I have two frustrations with my father. When he died in 1989, I was barely 17 years old and feel like not having see him enough. Then when I started to make music, the ear of my father and orientation have terribly missed me.


A: Apart from the preparation of your new album, do you have other things on fire?

A K: Several things even. But I do not want to talk because I am afraid of the evil eye! (Laughs)


Katia Sabri