Wednesday, April 11, 2012

El Menfi (Banishment): Akli Yahiaten & Rachid Taha

Rachid Taha first recorded "Menfi" on his 1998 album Diwân. He reprised it on his Rachid Taha Live album (2001), giving it a real kick-ass rock treatment (listen here), and by he also performs it with Khaled on Faudel on the famous 1-2-3 Soleils album (1999) (you can listen here).

I just came across a version of the original, which you can check out above. The song was written by Algerian Kabyle composer and singer Akli Yahiaten, who migrated to Paris in 1952, was a supporter of the FLN (the Algerian National Liberation Front), and composed "El Menfi (Banishment)" while in prison (for the second time), in 1959, for collecting funds for the FLN.

I located a transliteration of the Arabic lyrics here. And a translation of most of the lyrics here, where there are also some more versions of the song. I've tried to correct some mistakes in both the transliteration and translation, but there's a lot more to be done, and I'm sure I've made mistakes. So this is a work in progress -- and I hope someone will see this who knows Algerian dialect and will help out.

UPDATED, April 16, 2012. I came across this article, which has a better transcription, and translation (in French), of verse three, so I've made some more changes: Hadj Miliani, "Variations linguistiques et formulation thématiques dans la chanson algérienne au cours du XXe siècle: Un parcours," in Jocelyne Dakhlia, ed., Trames de langues: Usages et métissages linguistiques dans l'histoire du Maghreb, Paris: Maisonneuve & Larose, 2004, p. 433.

Goulou lemmi ma tebkish Ya el menfi (Tell my mother not to cry/O banishment)
Weldak rebbi ma yikhelik Ya el menfi (God will look after your son/O banishment)

Aw ya dakhal fi wast bibaan Ya el menfi
Aw al-saba‘a fih el gadaan Ya el menfi  (bis)
Aw galouli kashi al-doukhaan ya el menfi
Wana fi wasthum dehshaan ya el menfi


Aw ki dawni le tribunal Ya el menfi (When they took me to court)
Aw djadarmiya kbaar wa sghaar Ya el menfi (Gendarmes large and small)
Aw tisensla tewzen qantar Ya el menfi (And the chain weighs a ton [one qintal, 100 kg.)
Aw derbouni b‘aam wa nhaar Ya el menfi (And they beat me for a year and a day)


‘Ala dekhla haffuli al-ras Ya el menfi (When I entered they shaved my head)
Aw ‘atawni zura wa paillasse Ya el menfi (And gave me a blanket and a straw-filled mattress)
Wel prévôt ‘alaya ‘assaas Ya el menfi (The military police who surveils us)
‘Ala tamenya tesma‘a silence Ya el menfi (At eight you hear: silence)


Ah ya gelbi wash dak taif Ya el menfi (My heart is revolted)
Aw el-soupa dayman kif-kif Ya el menfi (The share [of food] is always the same)
Aw el gamila ma‘amra bi el ma Ya el menfi (The bowl is filled with [mere] water)
Aw li gralou ionim [?] fiha Ya el menfi (And cockroaches swim in it)

And here is a link to some more vids from Akli Yahiaten.


Jace Rupture said...

If I recall correctly, the lyrics to Taha's version are translated in the Diwan liner notes. Great song, thanks for posting the original!

Ted Swedenburg said...

He only translates three lines, unfortunately...And he transliterates, but the transliteration of the line about the cockroach, I don't quite get. Hope someone can set me straight.