Souad Massi: Up Close and Personal

السبت 30 حزيران 2007

souad massiWritten by Lina Ejeilat

It was just recently that I was introduced to the beautiful music of Souad Massi; France-based Algerian guitarist and vocalist, and I was very excited about the chance to see her perform live for the first time in Jordan, amidst the ancient columns of Jerash’s North Theater.

What I didn’t expect was that it would turn out to be one of the most wonderful concert experiences I’ve witnessed, captivating the audience, and bringing people down to the middle circle to dance and sway to Souad’s passionate music and beautiful voice.

Accompanied by a drummer, a percussionist, a bassist, a guitarist, as well as her own guitar, Souad and her band created an atmosphere to which it was impossible not to give in.

This 35-year-old mother of two had studied engineering, but had always wanted to become a singer. She studied music seriously, and started with a Flamenco group for a while, before forming a new rock band “Atakor”, with whom she toured Algeria for seven years and recorded a top-selling cassette, singing about social issues and daily life problems in Algeria.

It was in 1999 that Souad went to France to perform in a concert of Algerian women “Femmes D’Algerie”, which led to a contract with Island Records for her stunning performance. Her first album, Raoui (storyteller) was a great success in France.

Souad, referred to by many as the Algerian Tracy Chapman, writes her own lyrics and composes her own music. Most of her songs are in Arabic while a few are in French. Although the Jordanian audience couldn’t quite understand all the lyrics because of the difficulty of Algerian dialect, people tried to sing along at many points, and songs like Raoui and Ya Albi had a strong impact.

Her inspiration often came from love for her country, and feelings of loneliness and longing for home. Souad has released three albums so far, and is taking a one-year break after this tour (which included Cairo, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Ramallah, besides Amman) during which she will work on writing her fourth album. She confesses that she is not very familiar with modern Arabic pop music, and does not like the current video clip trend, where the themes are almost the same, focusing on dance, love, sex, and lacking in any originality.

concert

She also feels that Rai music has oftentimes overshadowed other beautiful Algerian genres of music and art. Her main influence is Guerouabi, who is a master of chaabi, an Algerian form of Andalus classical music. She says she’s also influenced by Um Kulthoum, by Flamenco music, and by rock bands like the Rolling Stones and Texas.

The Amman concert, which was organized by the French Cultural Center and Orange Red, was a great success. Her tour wraps up in Ramallah on the 30th, for which the tickets were sold out three weeks earlier.
Photos by Lina.

Movie:

More video of Souad Massi on YouTube.

souad massiFor more photos like this one on the left, see Hassan’s photo stream on flickr.