Hailed as Maghreb’s answer to Tracy Chapman, Souad Massi proves there’s a lot more to contemporary Algerian music than Raï. Armed with folk inspiration and a guitar, this young and talented singer-songwriter has made an impact on the international world’ scene with her own distinctive sound.
Her activism, popularity and courage brought her into the limelight. She has a golden voice and a sparkling talent. She creates a delicate and harmonious Algerian folk rock with activist and sensitive lyrics. Souad comes from a family of performers.
Her elder brother is a composer, her younger brother does new jack music and her little sister is a dancer…As for her, she always knew she would become a singer. She studied Arabo-Andalousian classical music, music theory and universal classical music. When she was 17, she performed on many stages with her only guitar. But at the same time, she was in a flamenco band “Les Trianas d’Alger”. It was a real flop. After this defeat she went to pieces and decided to give up. Fortunately, her younger brother pushed her into going on. With her band “Atakor” Souad Massi travelled through Algeria. Their rock music (close to hard rock music) echoed in the whole country. But things became more and more difficult for Souad. Further to many political pressure, the cabinet of town and country planning she worked in (Souad has an engineer degree) decided to dismiss her. Then she has been through a difficult period, financially as well as psychologically. And while the young singer was just about to give up, she was offered to join in the “Femmes d’Algerie / Women from Algeria” Festival. This show which was initiated by Allalou (a former radio and television reporter) and the “Bled-Connection” association, set up in Paris at the Cabaret Sauvage.
Recorded and mixed by Russell Elevado (D’Angelo, The Roots, Erykah Badu) and produced by Kidjo and longtime collaborator Jean Hebrail, Oyo features a band of highly accomplished musicians, including another Benin-born, New York-based artist, the guitarist Lionel Loueke, as well as Christian McBride on upright bass, Kendrick Scott on drums and Thiokho Diagne on percussion. The trumpeter Roy Hargove makes a memorable appearance on “Samba Pa Ti.”
On January 10, 1999, Souad arrived in France. There was a great atmosphere in the Cabaret Sauvage where all these Algerian musical women got together. Never mind the age or their regional roots, they were all united in their daily fight for Freedom. The show mixed together the feast (it was Ramadan) and the battle against fundamentalists. Paris audiences saw Souad Massi. They were astounded by her performance and deeply moved by her voice as well as her fantastic capacity to pass on feelings beyond the language barriers. Following this concert, Souad Massi signed a contract with the record label Island-Mercury. In order to keep Souad’s music and poetic world, Bob Coke (who previously worked with Ben Harper) is asked to carry out the artistic production. To preserve both Souad’s energy and emotion, Bob Coke decided to make a genuine live album. Thus he just managed to snatch the recording of the last song “Matebkich” which was then kept unprocessed. Electric and acoustic instruments were skilfully measured out. And altogether they made a true box where strong melodies and more especially Souad’s pure and moving voice could open out.
Her music atmospheres which wavered between rock and traditional music, mixed together electric and flamenco guitars, Arabic lute, battery, gumbri (Saharan acoustic bass), karkabous (Saharan metal castanets)… Each song was particular and reminded us of Joan Baez’ and Tracy Chapman’s rebellious and melodious worlds. The achievement of all these efforts was a magnificent album, where many different music styles (folk, chaabi, rock) came closer. Moreover it reflected all her talents and gave the opportunity to travel through her songs in a comprehensive way.
Souad used to put the finishing touches to her songs when she was on tour. Indeed while she was recording her album, she had one concert after another. She increased performances, especially famous opening shows : Orchestre National de Barbes, Thierry Titi Robin, Geoffrey Oreyma. In 2006, Souad Massi won the Victoire de la Musique award for the best world music album. The following year, she reworked an acoustic version of her repertoire during a number of concerts, which she recorded to produce her first live record, an intimate collection named: “Acoustic: The Best of Souad Massi”.
She brought out her fourth studio album in November 2010, produced under the guidance of Francis Cabrel and longstanding guitarist and producer Michel Françoise. “Ô Houria” marked a development in the Algerian folk singer’s artistic choices: most of the songs are sung in French to thank those of her fans who don’t speak Arabic, as she explained at the time. The collection features a duet in Arabic and French sung with Cabrel, entitled “Tout reste à faire”, a tribute to friendship between peoples co-written and interpreted by the two artists. The vocals have a pure quality, set to Massi’s faithful acoustic guitar. Souad Massi took the album on a tour starting on in 2010 at the Cigale, then around France and abroad in 2011, including dates in Jordan, Palestine and the Lebanon. For bookings in GAS, please contact Prime Tours.
- Label: Universal Music
- Based in: Paris, France
- Band/ Crew: 8 on stage/ 9-10 travelling