on 8 November 2005
Her 2003 album Deb established the Algerian expatriate Souad Massi as probably the most widely acclaimed female singer from the Arabic diaspora: quite a feat for an artist with an unfashionably non-fundamental, Western approach to her Muslim heritage. She left Algeria for France six years ago, and Mesk Elilreflects her growing homesickness. The title track, whose light flamenco guitar, embellished with oud flourishes and a sympathetic string arrangement, lends it the tone of a North African equivalent of the Latin American Tropicalismo style, refers to the memory-rush of her childhood triggered by the smell of honeysuckle. In "Kilyoum", an expat son assures his mother that everything's fine; "Miwawa" has Daby Toure joining Massi in affirming fidelity to their African roots. Massi's voice is perfect for this plaintive longing, as it is for fado-style laments such as "Malou" ("Why Is My Heart Sad") and "Dardjedi" ("Grandfather's House"). The settings involve smooth blends of oud, strings and woodwind anchored by rattling darabuka drums and loping basslines, sculpted into North African cha-chas like "Denia Wezmen" and Tinariwen-style Tuareg grooves like "Ilham". Enchanting.
on 6 December 2005
Souad Massi left Algeria for France to become a major celebrity with her unlikely fusion of north African styles and sad, gentle western folk ballads. Now she is moving on. The overall mood is still quietly tragic, and enthusiasts of her gently powerful singing and thoughtful songs will be delighted by Hagda Wala Akter (There's Worse) which deals with the depressing life of a friend back in Algiers, or a personal lament like Khalouni. But like some female Algerian answer to Morrissey, she is clever enough to match bleak lyrics with subtle and increasingly varied musical settings. So on the exquisite Malou, she brings in flamenco influences and on Ilham she provides a vocal reminder of her Berber roots.
on 6 December 2005
Sultry is a word best used sparingly when describing female singers from foreign lands, but it seems wholly appropriate with Souad Massi. The air seems to ripples with heat and dust as her alternatively plaintive and passionate voice weaves in and out of the staccato rhythms of flamenco guitars, and is buoyed up by subtle North African percussion and economical string arrangements.
Honeysuckle (Mesk Elil) is the Algerian singer/songwriter's third album and it's, on the whole, a more optimistic less angst-ridden affair than 2003's aptly named Heartbroken. Stand-out tracks are the hook-laden Ilham and it's evil twin - the sonically challenging, 7 minute remix Mahmi (the same title backwards - get it?) which closes the album.
on 27 February 2006
It's so easy to get wrapped up in her story, and think about the passionate woman having to fight against fundamentalism, missing her country etc. But this would get 5 stars it she were a spoiled brat from New York. Seeing her play live confirmed this fully. She spent many years learning what she does, and it shows. She is a musician, not a 'story': rhythm, melody, sound, song structure, a wonderful band, everything is on fire, from sad songs to pure party songs. By the way, for those who haven't seen her live: She's pretty but isn't interested in that when she plays: she's in jeans and a t-shirt like the rest of her band, having fun.
on 10 April 2009
This album certainly grows and grows. Apart from one or two average moments the overall quality here is amazing. This is gentle music but with a power that is undeniable, with personal struggle at the root of the story. Unique music which just gets better and better, what a discovery!
on 8 November 2005
Souad Massi works at her own gentle pace. When the thirtysomething Algerian-born singer-guitarist played Shepherd’s Bush Empire a couple of years ago, her introverted manner seemed a painful hindrance at first. By the end of the evening, we sensed that we were witnessing the birth of an assured world-music star. Much the same applies to her third album. Massi’s debt to the likes of Tracy Chapman is hard to ignore on a first hearing. Be patient: with time, the blend of pop and Moorish elements grows more and more seductive. Massi is creating her own tender language of love and loss at the point where East meets West.