Commitment to struggle and Arabic.. Basttarzi is an Algerian resistance fighter in the field of theater


Algeria – In the rhythm of civil awareness instilled by the national movement, Muhyiddin Bastharzi (1897-1986) grew up to become a leader of an emerging cultural scene, and used music and then theater as a means of communication and raising awareness, taking advantage of all the political events that Algeria went through, in one of the most difficult colonial struggles.

He began his career singing religious praises in mosques and reciting the Holy Qur’an, but changed his path to be an opera singer, then a distinguished actor, writer and theater director.

Before Bastharzi ascended the stage, the foundations of which he laid with the company of Ali Selali (Allalo) (1902-1992) and Rashid Ksentini (1887-1944), the man’s march passed through important stations that polished his talent and personality.

Beginnings and turn

On December 5, 1897, Muhyiddin Bashtarzi was born in the ancient Al-Qasaba district of the capital, and he studied at the new mosque.

At the age of 18, Bastharzi caught the attention of the Grand Mufti, Hassan Buqandora, with his performance and the strength of his vocal voice. He joined the band of praise and religious chanting, nicknamed “Al-Qassadin”, to reach, after 3 years, the rank of chief reciter.

Later, chance played its role, as Bashtarzi met Edmond Yavel, a specialist in “Al-Sana” music, and his second teacher, who would pave the way for him to the stage by transferring him from religious praise to performing the Arabic and Andalusian lyrical character after joining the “Al-Mutribia” musical association.

This move met with strong opposition from his teacher and his conservative family, but Bishtarzi went his way.

Shabtarzi young man
Algerian playwright Muhyiddin Bachtarzi Shaba (Al-Jazeera)

Meet the singer

Bastharzi says in his memoirs, “By singing, I reached the stage, and it was the stage that pushed me to the theater, which penetrated deep inside me.”

His meeting with Mr. Ali Selali (Alalo) in the association had a great impact on the transformation of his career later, and the beginning was by choosing the “Trianon” cinema hall as a place for presenting comic “sketches” (shows) for a period not exceeding 25 minutes.

In the beginning, the performances presented by Bachtarzi and his companions were an improvisational act that did not amount to amateur theater, but it marked the beginning of communication with Algerians and speaking to them through humor in the colloquial dialect, by drawing inspiration from a figure from folklore, then moving to the public space on the occasion of religious holidays and dealing with topics about social ills.

From here, the embryonic formation of the Algerian theater began, as the first cohort of the theater will be formed, which will present a purely theatrical performance in the Arabic language of the play “For the sake of the homeland” on December 29, 1922 on the choirsal stage.

Despite the lack of an audience, Beshtarzi later achieved some of what he was looking forward to through the performances of the play “Juha” in 1926.

He remained preoccupied with music and singing until he entered the world of playwriting with the play “Ignorant People Claiming Knowledge” in 1932, to be the start of his artistic career after realizing the limitations of music as a means of communication in the colonial context.

Bashtarzi continued to act, and presented a number of performances, including “Faqo” (1934), “Ali Al-Nif” (1934), “Bani Wei Wei” (1935), “Deceivers” (1937), “The Liars” (1938) and ” What is useful is the truth” (1938).

Professor Ahsan Telilani, a professor of theater at the University of Skikda, told Al Jazeera Net that Bashtarzi had a major role in “establishing the foundations of theater and cultivating this art in Algerian soil, because he had a troupe with which he toured Algerian cities.”

Resistance theatre

The First World War (1914-1918) had an important role in the maturation of the Algerian national movement, in whose arms the Algerian theater arose and was imbued with its values, which was initiated by a national elite headed by Bachtarzi, who is credited with launching the “cultural resistance” to preserve the Algerian personality.

After his preoccupation with singing, Bachtarzi realized the limitations of music, so he entered the world of theatrical composition for the Algerian public. Source: Midjerni
After his preoccupation with singing, Bashtarzi realized the limitations of music, so he entered the world of theatrical composition (oil painting, Medjerney).

The researcher in culture and communication, Makhlouf Boukrouh, says in a statement to Al-Jazeera Net that the theater was considered a weapon of resistance and defense of identity under occupation, pointing out that this “is reflected in the contents of the plays, the methods and forms of their expression, their language and their position on the events that Algeria lived through, and the activity of Bshatarzi falls within this trend.” “.

Beshtarzi theatrical performances achieved a lot of success, which made the censorship increase, especially when the colonial power smelled some theatrical performances, especially “On the Nif” and “Bani Wei Wei”, a revolutionary sense and a call for resistance, until the performance of the play “The Deceivers” came. To Governor Lobo’s announcement (in April 1937) of stopping the theatrical tours of the Beshtarzi troupe.

The late academic Rachid Bin Shanab estimated in his writings that “for Basttarzi, political commitment is not a marginal act, but rather an option that determines his way of seeing the theater, where the Algerian can discover the echo of his fears and aspirations.”

As for Professor Ahsan Telilani, author of the book “Algerian Theater in the Shadows of the National Movement,” he describes Bashtarzi’s theater as “resisting indirectly by employing Algerian folklore to highlight the Arab-Islamic identity, considering the use of classical Arabic as a feature of the resistance.”

And Tilani considered that Beshtarzi was not an explicit resistance fighter, but he defended the identity of the Algerian people, and quoted topics from Islamic history, pointing out that the man presented “a popular theater that meets the aspirations of Algerians at that time, although it was a black comedy.”

The Godfather

Muhyiddin Bachtarzi is considered one of the founding poles of the Algerian theatrical movement, as he was not satisfied with theatrical composition, acting, directing and singing, but rather laid the foundations for the Algerian theatrical institution.

Beshtarzi composed more than 50 plays between 1932 and 1955, and in 1947 he established the Arab Theater Troupe at the Opera House.

The dean of the Algerian theater, Taha Al-Amiri, confirms that “the fathers of the Algerian theater are Allalo, who retired from the theater in 1932, and Rachid Constantine and Muhyiddin Bashtarzi,” considering that the latter is “the spiritual father, without whom Algerian artistic groups would not have existed.”

Ahsan Tililani describes the Beshtarzi theater as the most cultural, and that it is a classic Algerian theater that is characterized by continuity, and in view of the experience of Allalo and Constantine, his theatrical experience is more durable and its credit is greater.

Beshtarzi was prolific and had an intense presence on stage, drawing attention with his skill in role-playing. He also contributed to the discovery of many talents, such as the singer Hashemi Qarwabi and the actors Hassan Al-Hassani, Ruwaishid, Kulthum and Abdel Halim Rais.

The first photo (Al-Jazeera) Mr. Boukrouh
Boukrouh: Bashtarzi’s activity did not stop at writing, acting, directing and singing, but rather went beyond creating theater groups (Al-Jazeera)

Professor Makhlouf Boukrouh says that Bashtarzi’s contribution to the theatrical movement remains essential in view of his multiplicity of talents, as his activity did not stop at writing, acting, directing and singing, but rather went beyond creating many theater groups and forming a generation of creators, as he left a huge theatrical heritage.

After a prolific career in the service of national culture during the occupation and after independence, Muhyiddin Bashtarzi died on February 6, 1986, leaving the Algerian National Theater building bearing his name in memory of a bus journey serving culture and preserving identity.


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Commitment to struggle and Arabic.. Basttarzi is an Algerian resistance fighter in the field of theater

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