Often considered the most beautiful female voice of North Africa, Souad Massi has forged her reputation over the course of a career spanning more than 20 years. Driven by an unfailing determination to speak out for what she values most: freedom and justice, her songs are steeped in love, altruism and bravery, with a constant will to eradicate intolerance. It has been said that she is the Tracy Chapman of the Maghreb. Far from the breaking wave of raï, Souad Massi, with her folk inspiration, guitar slung over her shoulder, brought a new sound to Algerian music.
Born in the 1970s into a modest family in Algiers, Souad Massi discovered music at a very young age. From the outset her music was one of encounters, contrasts and cultural blending, as she studied what we name “classical” music alongside Arab-Andalusian music. Onto these two demanding genres she grafted her own influences: blues, folk and rock. Souad Massi moves easily from one style to another, playing in the early 90s with the flamenco group Triana from Algiers and at the end of the decade with the hard rock group Atakor. Souad Massi released her first solo cassette in 1998. Writing her own lyrics and music, she attracted much attention during the “Femmes d’Algérie” festival in Paris in January 1999; to such a degree that she was signed by the Universal Music label Island-Mercury, who produced her first album.
That album “Raoui” (the storyteller) was released in March 2001. Passing from rock to traditional music, the public discovered an artist who mastered styles as distant as chaâbi and American folk rock, mixing electric and acoustic instruments with her pure and moving vocals. The album sold over 80,000 copies and Souad Massi played all across France to full houses, including venues such as La Cigale and the Olympia.
In 2002, the French State named her “Knight of The Order of Arts and Letters”.
With “Deb”, her second album, released in 2003, Souad Massi modernised her “world music” and undertook several tours throughout France and the rest of Europe, as well as Central Africa, North America and Oceania. “Deb” was nominated for the Victoires de la Musique 2004 in the category Best World Music Album.
In 2005, she became a United Nations Ambassador for micro-credits, to help women in Africa.
The album “Mesk Elil” (the scent of honeysuckle), released in 2005, is tinged with nostalgia, addressing the pain of exile and distance. It is the fruit of several collaborations and its musical breadth reveals a wide openness to the world.
In 2006, “Mesk Elil” was awarded the Victoire de la Musique for best album in the “World Music” category.
Souad Massi’s first live album, “Acoustic: The Best of Souad Massi” was released in 2007, featuring more intimate, acoustic versions of her songs.
In 2010, Souad Massi released her fourth studio album, “Ô Houria”, produced by the French signer Francis Cabrel. Many songs on this album are in French. The reason for this, explains the artist, was that she wanted to thank her fans who do not speak Arabic. 2010 also marked the beginning of Souad Massi’s collaboration with the guitarist Eric Fernandez on the “Choeurs de Cordoue” project, offering a fresh approach to Arab-Andalusian music.
In 2011, Souad Massi was awarded the prize for World Music by the French rights society the SACEM.
“El Mutakallimûn” was released in 2015. This album offers texts taken from the works of great Arab poets including Abu Madi from Lebanon, Abou El Kacem Chebbi from Tunisia and the 10th century Iraqi poet Al-Moutanabbi. In this remarkable blend of genres, Algerian folk rock meets African music, bossa nova and traditional Algiers music.
From 2016 to 2019, she went on tour as part of a trio, alongside two friends both in life and on the stage: the percussionist Rabah Khalfa, who has played with some of the big names of the French and Algerian music scene since the 70s (Renaud, Idir, Matoub Lounès, Aït Menguellest), and guitarist Mehdi Dalil, a 24-year-old prodigy.
In 2017 she was elevated to the rank of “Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters”.
Her album, “Oumniya” (my wish) was released in autumn 2019 with Naïve / Believe. The songs, mostly in the Algerian dialect and in French, convey her concerns for Algeria and the causes close to her heart. Her lyrics speak of freedom and emancipation, betrayal, love and humanism.
In October 2022 we await the release of her latest album, followed by a tour in France and overseas.
Awards & nominations :
2001 : 1st Gold disc in France
2002 : Decorated Knight of The Order of Arts and Letters (France)
2003 : 2nd Gold disc in France
2004 : France – Nomination Victoires de la musique (category Best World Music album)
2005 : United Nations Ambassador for the cause of women in the world.
2006 : UK – BBC World Music Awards (category MENA)
2006 : France – Award Victoires de la musique (Best World Music album)
2011 : SACEM Prize for World Music
2017 : Decorated Officer of The Order of Arts and Letters
2020 : UK – Songlines Music Awards (nominated for Best album Africa)
2020 : Netherlands – Edison Jazz World awards (nominated for Best album World Music)