Souad Massi – A Symbol of Strength through her Music

On 23 August 1972, Souad Massi was born in the city of Algiers in Algeria to an impoverished family with seven children. Her social problems did not burden her or cast a shadow over her dreams. Every night, she would risk her life to walk to her guitar lessons long after curfew, and with the support of her brother she started on her road to musical success. Even though she is a Berber of Kabyle descent, she has no political ties or aspirations. All that Souad Massi is interested in is playing her music and sharing her thoughts with the world.

After joining a flamenco band at the age of seventeen, Massi was certain that she wanted to perform, but was looking for something a little more exciting. And excitement she definitely found after joining the rock group named Atakor in the 1990’s. Although the band was very successful, gained a lot of public interest and put Massi on the map, the group also attracted unwanted attention. The fundamentalist militia started taking note of the political lyrics and messages that were being sung by the band and after landing themselves on the hit list and receiving death threats, Massi decided to lay low.

Her big break came when she was invited to perform at the 1999 “Femmes d’Algerie” which was held in Paris. Island Records signed her immediately, which led to her first album release in 2001, called “Raoui” (“Storyteller”). And contrary to what would be expected, this musician, singer and songwriter does not perform Rai music. Her music is influenced by a mixture of country, rock and a little folk music, which is always accompanied by an acoustic guitar. Her lyrics are not political, but speak of heartache and sadness, and of personal experiences. The balanced collection of love songs and hip swinging rhythms found on her albums, while singing in French, Algerian Arabic, Kabyle and English, have gained her a faithful following of fans and popularity. Souad Massi was even nominated as “Best Newcomer” in 2002, at the Radio 3 World Music Awards. After the success of her first album, Massi followed with the release of “Deb” (“Heart-Broken”) in 2003 and “Mesk Elil” (“Honeysuckle”) in 2006.

Many women in Algeria look up to Souad Massi, as she is the example of a once oppressed woman living in fear and intimidation, but who had the courage and brave soul to rise above poverty and the turmoil. She has managed to highlight the suffering and struggles in Algeria without being an activist or rebel, and soothes those who are in need of comforting with her haunting voice and sensitive lyrics. Souad Massi has created her own unique style of music, and together with her beauty and extreme privacy in regard to her life and thoughts, has become a beautiful enigma in the music industry.