Born on August 23, 1972 Souad Massi discovered her passion for music at a young age. Descending from a family of musicians, her uncles were jazzmen and her brothers were musicians who introduced her to the music of El Hashemi Guerouabi, then rock and American music.
It’s her eldest brother, a composer, who took the initiative of sending her to the association of Art schools in Algeria so she can learn to play the guitar. She continued studying classical music, solfege and the Arab-Andalusia music. Throughout these years, Souad was evolving and getting better musically. Meanwhile, her friend introduced her to the country music of the 40s, the music that inspired her own unique style.
1989 was the year when Souad Massi started appearing in the scene. Having her guitar with her the whole time gave life to her passion. At the same time, she was part of a Flamenco Triana group with whom she did few appearances on Algerian TV channels.
She began her career performing in the Kabyle political rock band Atakor, before leaving the country following a series of death threats. Throughout the dark years of Algeria, artists weren’t respected and it was hard for them to have concerts anywhere. That discouraged her, she even thought of quitting despite her passion for music.
In January 1999, Souad was invited to Paris to participate in the festival of “Women of Algeria”, she moved there without knowing that this was going to change her life and her career. She didn’t go unnoticed, her songs and her charisma were more than enough to make her the center of attention at Universal Music. This was Souad’s take off for a new career.
She took 2 years to prepare her album, she wrote the lyrics, she composed the music and in March 2001 she released “Raoui”, a mix of sweetness, melancholy & worries. Fifteen days were enough to record the album under intimate conditions with the complicity of Bob Coke. She mixed rock with tradition and with that album, an artist with a shocking voice and a huge talent was revealed to a big audience and witnessed a grand success.
“Raoui” was a song that got to a big number of people with its sensual melody and Souad’s beautiful voice. It’s true that it was the album’s title but also the title of her career, the song that the audience knows, the song that is a hit until today.
With her album “Raoui”, Souad started touring and did over 200 concerts. Her concert at “La Cigale” in Paris was sold-out and then her concert at L’Olympia became a bigger star than ever. More than 80 000 tickets were sold and her dream became reality. In Europe, she witnessed a huge success and in 2002, she received a prize for the Foreign song from Charles Cros’ Academy as well as an award from the High francophone council for her album.
Her production house encouraged her to record duos with international artists. In 2001, she recorded “Paris” with Marc Lavoine, then recorded “Noir et Blanc” with Ismael Lo and finally, “Savoir Aimer” with Florent Pagny.
In 2003, she recorded her second album “Deb”. That album reflected all what influenced Souad Massi. The Arab-Andalusia music, chaabi, rock, folk… All these styles were present but this time, she also included modern music. She wanted an international recognition specially in the Anglo-Saxon world.
After the album was released, she was back on the road for another tour; starting at the Olympia and then going all the way to Soudan, Spain and the United States.
In 2003, “Deb” was the most international album sold in France which made her go back to touring, starting in Paris and then to whole world and in the Anglo-saxon world, the positive feedbacks kept coming her way with an amazing success.
She had to stop and visit Tunis to get a taste of home before returning to France and start working on her 3rd album “Mesk Elil” in 2005; an album made of memories, melancholia and nostalgia. In that album, she remembers, talks and tells a story in her songs. That album Marked an evolution in her career and also featured Voices like Daby Toure, Manu Katche & Pascal Danae.
She brought out her fourth studio album in November 2010, produced under the guidance of Francis Cabrel and longstanding guitarist and producer Michel Françoise. “Ô Houria” marked a development in the Algerian folk singer’s artistic choices: most of the songs are sung in French to thank those of her fans who don’t speak Arabic, as she explained at the time. The collection features a duet in Arabic and French sung with Cabrel, entitled “Tout reste à faire”, a tribute to friendship between peoples co-written and interpreted by the two artists. The vocals have a pure quality, set to Massi’s faithful acoustic guitar.
In 2015, “El Mutakalimun” which reinterprets ten classic songs from around the Arab world, from “Sa’imtou”, the Muallaqa of the 6th century poet Zuhayr Ibn Abi Salma, to poetry by Abu Kassem El Shabbi whose poem “The Will to Life” was made internationally famous by the Arab Spring. Consisting of 10 songs, El Mutakallimun mixes eras, with for example the poet of the sixth century Zoheirn Ibn Abi Selma and the Tunisian poet of the early twentieth century “Abou El Kacem EL Chebbi”, whose verses were taken over by protesters in the Arab spring 2011. Literally the album’s title means The Speakers, but since it is taken from ilm-al-kalam, it would be more accurately translated as ‘defenders of the faith’ – and the album is, according to Massi, a way to reclaim the Arab world from being swallowed up by the rhetoric of terrorism.
A worldwide recognized Arab talent is who she is, a true humble star that her calmness on the stage attracts you.