Souad Massi In agreement with Your European Stage.
A leading light among the Algerian artists, Souad Massi takes her homeland music tradition to another level. Talented melodist, passionate about mixing cultures and sounds... folk, rock, rai, African blues and a touch of French chanson. She is an activist and lets it known in her lyrics with great courage and sensitivity
Born in 1972 in Bab El Oued, the old working-class neighbourhood of Algiers that has nursed more than one revolution. Souad grew up in the suburb of St Eugene, amidst gardens that smelled of honeysuckle. Her father was a quiet man, who worked for the national water company and loved chaabi, the traditional pop of old Algeria. Her mother came from Kabylia, the mountainous Berber region of northern Algeria; her mother’s music was Aretha Franklin and James Brown.
Souad’s uncle - everyone called him ‘Hugo’ - played jazz on his ‘flamenco’ guitar. Her brothers all played music too, but when she started to learn how to play herself, she found it hard. “Yeah, in any case, music is a boy’s thing,” her brother would declare, “like cars…” But then he enrolled Souad in music classes at the École des Beaux Arts in Algiers, without even telling her.
“I was scared to be a woman because the status of women in Algeria frightened me,” Souad says. She cropped her hair and took to wearing boyish clothes and playing football. People would throw insults and spit in her direction, especially when she was carrying her guitar case. “I was already very solitary,” she remembers. “The night was an important time for me. If you wanted to cry, no one could see you. I lived in a large family and you couldn’t do that during the day.”
She loved going to the movies and watching westerns. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was her favourite. Through westerns, she found out about country music and folk. They became her obsession, a very strange one for a young Algerian teenager. She also loved old Arabic poetry, and Victor Hugo.