Yal Menfi

Here are three versions of Yal Menfi (Oh, [the] Exile/Outlaw) an Algerian dialect song of the Algerian struggle against French colonialism. It discusses a captured rebel’s experience being tortured in French custody. The refrain runs thusly “[t]ell my mother not to cry [. . .] God will not abandon your son.”




The first version is the “original” one, performed by Akli Yahyaten, a Kabyle musician. Unfortunately, it is merely an audio recording with album imagery moving across the screen. The musical arrangement and production allow the listener to appreciate the song’s themes by projecting emotional and sombre elements, especially through the string section. The video’s selection presents a little under one half of the actual recording, which includes an `oud/vocals section in between where this video ends and where another section picks back up.

The second version also features Yahyaten, but also includes a female backup section, and the well respected singer Hamidou. I am not a fan of Hamidou’s rendition, or his style of singing generally. This version is interesting, but does not capture the song’s essence, in my opinion. It is almost ironically upbeat in tempo and arrangement.

The third rendition feature three of the most well known Algerian singers outside Algeria; Cheb Khaled, Cheb Mami, and Rachid Taha. Taha released his own version of Yal-Menfi (“Menfi“) on his album 1, 2, 3, Soleils (1999). This is the version on which the trio’s performance is based. There are other performances by these three of Algerian patriotic songs, notably the song Abdelkader. The quality of this rendition is debatable, not least because none of the three are singing in their natural set of the Algerian dialect (all three are from western Algeria, whereas the song is in a more eastern dialect).

Here is my transliteration of the lyrics (corrects are welcome and encouraged!):

[Chorus] Goolou lommi matebkiche
[Yal menfi]

Waldek rabbi mayy khalliche

[Yal menfi]

Aw adakhal fi wast ibaan
[Yal menfi]
Assiba’a fiha il gidaan
[Yal menfi]
Aw galou li kachi dokkhan
[Yal menfi]
Wana fi wasthom dahshan

Aw ki dawni le tribunal
[Yal menfi[
Jadarmiya kbaar wisghaar
[Yal menfi]
Aa wissensla tewzen qantar
[Yal Menfi]
Darbouni baan winhaar

Aarift hla haffouli rraas
[Yal menfi]
Aataouni zawra oo bayas
[Yal menfi]
Wil grifounia assaas
[Yal menfi]
Arift minya tesmaa siyyet

Aw ya galbi wish daak diif
[Yal menfi]
Aw wissobba dayman kifkif
[Yal menfi]
Wil gamila maamra bil maal
[Yal menfi]
aarift minya tesmaa siyyet

Anyone with strong Derja skills is encouraged to offer a strong translation. The pieces I can (or think I can) half-way translate are here:

“[Something about a shaved head], and he gave me a blanket and a doormat, the clerk is our guardian, you know why you hear the whip.”

“When they took me to court, gendarmes large and small, with a string weighing one quntal, beat me for a year and a day.”

“My heart is revolted, the share [of food] is always the same, the bowl is filled with water, and roaches sit in it.”



12 thoughts on “Yal Menfi

  1. Nouri,

    All 3 versions are sung in Arabic (OK Algerian Arabic with its usual mix of a few French words) no Kabyle needed for this.

  2. I actually enjoy some of the Raï that is out there, the type of Raï that doesn’t sound like rap.

    Right now (not this very moment tinawiren, Malouma etc.) i am listening to many Sahel If anyone want some illegal rapidshare links, you know who to ask :^`)

    Don’t worry, i support those who are good…

  3. All 3 versions are sung in Arabic (OK Algerian Arabic with its usual mix of a few French words) no Kabyle needed for this.

    I always had the impression that it had an unusual amount of Kabyle in it! Thanks for that! It is on an album that is almost totally in Kabyle, and I always assumed the parts of the song I did not understand were Kabyle.

  4. Man, i hacked that post up; I had to run to class quickly.

    I was trying to say that Raï is good, but very much enjoy music from the Sahara and Sahel, such as the artist provided in the previous post.

  5. Aaron

    Did you get a chance to listen to Gnawa music from Morocco? I am not talking about Gnawa Diffusion the band (led by Amazigh Kateb) but the musical genre of the gnawa (slave descendants in Morocco).

  6. Hello

    The first version is the “original” one, [composed – text and music and] performed by Akli Yahyaten, a Kabyle musician, [who writes his own texts to his music-master pieces]. Unfortunately, it is merely an audio recording with album imagery moving across the screen.

    Following is a link to a live performance of that song by Akli himself:

    This song is written somewhere in France, where he experienced Colonial-France jail as a militant within “Fédération de France”, during the Algerian independence war.

    NB. The most Kabyle singer of that time singed in both languages: Tamazight / Kabyle and algerian arabic. El Hasnaoui, El Anka, Sliman Azem, Zerouki Alaoua, Akli Yahyaten… Unfortunatelly no arabic singer sang, until now – 2011, both in Algerian Arabic and Tamazight / Kabyle. A sad reality to meditate!


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