Souad Massi is an Algerian singer with Berber roots that began her musical journey in a Flamenco band but left and joined the rock band Atakor. As Berbers with Western influences, singing political lyrics in Kabyle she received death threats from fundamentalists and attempted to disguise herself in male clothing, eventually she left the band and moved to Paris. Her records are not rock music and not Rai (Algeria’s most popular musical export). Her records sound more like Fado with Flamenco tinges, as well as African, Indian, Western and Arabic influences, sung in Arabic, although she also sings in French and sometimes English. An interesting hybrid blending all these influences and performing them in a mainly acoustic band, that includes Massi playing acoustic guitar, sometimes with flute and violin, an oud player and tabla depending on the project and whether live or in the studio. Everything is acceptable in her music – drums, bass, machines, other singers and all with a quality sound.
Deb (Heartbroken) is her second album and she sings with those wonderful Arabic melodies but maintains an ambition to embrace all her cultural influences, often singing more than one language in a song. Artists like this have fought for their rights to sing and play, to have opinions, to be women with a voice. It’s hard for us to imagine, but getting to a guitar lesson after there has been a military coup with curfews and uncertainty and danger all around you makes our little problems seem rather insignificant. Add to this coming from a poor neighbourhood of Algiers, one of seven children and her success in France where she is known best outside her home continent is all the more extraordinary.