I don’t just stand for women, but for human rights above all: Souad Massi 

Fatma Lotfi
6 Min Read

Shining in an elegant black dress, Souad Massi, one of the most successful female singer-songwriter, guitarist in the Arabic-speaking world, performed on Wednesday an orchestral selection of her best songs, conceptualised and organised by SAWT Music at the Marquee theatre at Cairo Festival City, betwixt an outstanding reception from her Egyptians fans.

Photo by Asmaa Gamal

The selection included a number of her songs such as ‘Mesk Elil,’ ‘Raoui’, and ‘Ya Kelbi,’ as well as three others from her new album.

Massi, who was forced to leave her homeland, Algeria, after receiving several anonymous death threats as the civil war broke out, said that she believes that singing, writing, and composing music, are acts of resistance and rebellion against what she faced in her early life and her society’s disapproval of her choice to become an artist.

“It (the resistance) is never-ending,” Massi told Daily News Egypt. “I am trying to resist through my lyrics and music. It began at home with my family and in my country, when I was trying to convince them of my desire to become an artist. Despite their rejection at the first, eventually they supported me.” Massi stated.

Massi was born in 1972, in the poor neighbourhood of Bab el Oued in Algeria. Her family comes from Kabylia, the home of the Berber people.

She studied music, and used to play the guitar during her childhood years. At an early age, Massi joined the Kabyle political rock band, Atakor, before heading to France.

In the thick of all difficulties she struggled with, in 1999 she found a chance to leave all the restriction over her career when she was invited to participate in the Femmes d’Algérie concert at the Cabaret Sauvage in France, her second home until now.

As a woman, Massi tolerated much to accomplish her dream. “Women in the Arab world face difficulties in choosing a profession such as being an artist, doctor, or an engineer,” Massi said.

Photo by Asmaa Gamal

She pointed out that Arab people or families are afraid of women becoming artists. “it’s difficult,” she noted, but Massi eventually succeeded in turning her dream into a reality.

Massi launched five albums, including Raoui, Deb, O Houria and Mesk Elil. She received considerable popularity not just in the Arab world, but also in Europe, due to her music and choice of remarkable lyrics.

Her praise among Egyptian fans was increased by her appearance in the movie The Eyes of a Theft (2014), in which she joined Egyptian actor Khaled Abol Naga and Jordanian-Palestinian director Najwa Najjar.

“I was very afraid at first,” Massi admitted, “I hesitated a lot before accepting the role, as I was afraid of the acting experience and standing before cameras.”

However, Massi said that she enjoyed her experience, and described it as a great one. “It was filmed in Nablus. It was the only way I could support the Palestinian cause.”

Massi, who tackled in her songs subjects such as freedom, struggles, and resistance, said that she does not just “stand for women, but for human rights above all.”

Photo by Asmaa Gamal

“I am trying to considerately discuss with people those rights and issues (in society) in my songs, and to convince them (to change) not by force.”

Massi sings in Algerian, French, English and classical Arabic. She said that she carefully chooses her lyrics, especially the poems she performs. In her 2015 album El Mutakallimun, The Masters of Words, she revived the phrases of a number of prominent Arab poets, including Iraqi poet Ahmed Matar, who spent most of his life in exile due to his critical poems of Arab leaders.

“We go through many things. We read a lot, so we get influenced by writers and poets, which helps me in writing lyrics,” Massi elaborated.

She added that she studied music in Algeria. “Additionally, I was lucky to have lived in France, and to have been surrounded by global artists who affected my character.”

During a two-hour live concert, Massi chose to perform her new Egyptian dialect song, named Salam, ‘goodbye’. “It was written by Nader Abdallah, and composed by Khaled Ezz,” Massi mentioned.

Additionally, she prepared extra new songs, including two poems, one for Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish called I love you, and another for Baha’ Al-din Zuhair called My Lord.

The two songs, in addition to Salam, will be included in her new collection and album.

Massi said that there will be no new forthcoming cinema experience soon, yet she revealed that her sixth album will be launched in August next year.   

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A journalist in DNE's politics section with more than six years of experience in print and digital journalism, focusing on local political issues, terrorism and human rights. She also writes features on women issues and culture.
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