Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Souad Massi

I don't know Arabic, but after hearing what Souad Massi does with the lanaguage I wouldn't mind learning.

I came across Massi's Deb by accident while browsing in the Jazz section at Borders. Massi is an Algerian folk singer -- in fact not Jazz at all -- with a light fusion touch (her songs here have a touch of flamenco). She's currently based in Paris, though she didn't move there until 1999. An interview in the Independent suggests that Massi moved to Paris after getting into a little trouble with militants in Algiers following the release of her first album. It's hard to understand why, since there are no political songs on Deb (the liner notes come with translations of the songs). But then, there's no arguing with these people, is there?

I don't want to wax too poetic about the music (you can listen to samples at Amazon or here), except to say that the production quality on Deb is simple and just about perfect, opening up space for Massi's voice. She's not trying to be a pop or cross-over hit, so she avoids the fate of singers like the Egyptian Natacha Atlas (who doesn't quite do it for me). Sometimes you just want a singer and an acoustic guitar.

This review wants to emphasize Massi's 'rebel' side, and compares her to Joan Baez and Tracy Chapman, neither of whom seem particularly similar.

And here is an interview at BBC, after she was nominated for a British World Music award in 2003. There Massi hints that life in Paris for a modern/secular Algerian woman isn't necessarily that simple either.


msingh said...

I'm listening to the sample as I write - have to say I'm struck by the purity and fuidity of her voice. And she seems to be singing so effortlessly!

Personally I would love her to sing in Punjabi, it's too much effort to learn Arabic.


11:15 AM  
Saheli said...

I actually love listening to music in languages I don't know, and frequently sing along. I think I picked up the habit with Dead Can Dance in high school, which often had non-linguistic lyrics in its best pieces. Growing up with Bengali and Hindi music and even Sanskrit songs, I was motivated to learn what frequently learn what the words meant, but by the time I started dancing Tamil, Telugu and Kannada were just too much and too different to try to consistently learn meanings. I'm a huge fan of Chab Mami. I can sometimes piece together Spanish from French and Latin. But I've got Nigerian and Uzbecki and Chinese and Icelandic songs in my collection. No hope of learning everything. :-)

Thanks for the recommendation!! A bit sad and timely, of course.

2:59 PM  
ana beynaam said...

i'm listening to the track from the BBC, and it's just lovely, it sounds so sad. and i like that it is in in arabic, a contrast to the fantastic rai stuff that's polyglot (arabic, french, berber, possibly spanish). i want to listen to more now.

msingh: someone could well say that learning punjabi is an effort as well. :) arabic speakers might have a tough time with it. . . since they don't have a 'p', and since quite a few punjabi words use 'p' for what would be 'b' in hindi or urdu. mai koi ghalt akkheya?!

and i don't know if you'd agree amardeep, but if you've ever heard the lebanese singer fairouz, does massi's voice remind you a little of hers?

6:40 PM  
msingh said...

ana, I didn't mean she should learn punjabi, I just meant singing the lyrics of some good Punjabi songs - think of all the people who would get pleasure listening to her!

9:29 PM  
Anjali Taneja said...

Boy oh boy, I do love Souad Massi. My first exposure to her was about a year ago in NYC, when a friend invited me to see this new (to us) Algerian performer. I fell in love with her, her band, and the music instantly.

And in regards to listening to music in other languages, I've grown up listening to Hindi and Punjabi music without always knowing what was said. Sometimes I catch on and sing along, other times, I just immerse myself in the emotion that I'm feeling from the words I don't know. The same holds true for Massi's music.

11:41 PM  
ana beynaam said...

msingh: that's true! i knew what you meant. . . i was just imagining her having to master those "p's" :)but then with her voice, it probably wouldn't even matter.

in regards to listening to music in other languages, i grew up listening to ghazals, and filmi songs without always knowing what was said. and in college as i met more people from around the world, i was exposed to music and lyrics i couldn't understand at all. music, to me, is as universal a language as say food is. and i can listen to a song by khaled like "wahrane wahrane" or mami's "bledi" and feel the pain even if i don't understand the words. or madredeus. and i have to smile at those who think its pretentious to be in the know about world music. what is thaaat all about?!

2:32 AM  
Suvendra Nath Dutta said...

Here we go again. Read Amardeep's blog, spend some cash. You could make some good money if you put in a referral link to Amazon.

9:19 AM  
uncleji said...

While in the World Music section of Amazon check out Belgian/Arab Singer Natacha Atlas especially her album Halim.

9:22 AM  
uncleji said...

Nooo Sardarji wouldn't sulleny his reputation with anything as sordid as commerce :)

9:23 AM  
www.gypsynan.blogspot.com said...

good links...Algerian music by the way is the most fascinating in the Arab world. Original, creative and unique.

4:27 PM  
sepoy said...

She is great...also, check out Rachid Taha - I should send you my Maghrib Mix.

6:41 PM  
siddhartha said...

hey amardeep, her new album "mesk elil" ("honeysuckle") just came out in the u.s. it's great, check it out.
- sm

5:30 PM  
Saffron said...

Even if you do learn Arabic, you'll have a hard time understanding the lyrics of this album as the Algerian accent(as with other North African arabic accents, except Egyptian)is quite difficult to understand - even for us Arabic speakers. But it is still lovely to listen to. Very easy on the ear.

12:38 PM  
nousha said...

I speak Arabic and I hardly understand some of her words!
Perhaps if I read them somewhere I would understand more, so if anyone found any of her arabic lyrics, please let me know, I would love to translate them for u :-)

8:10 AM  

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