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Archive for October 6th, 2010:

French Pop Song of the Week: In Arabic, from Souad Massi

posted October 6, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music


France, as a center of wealth and culture, has for many years been a destination for immigrants, allowing it to absorb outside influences and, as a result, continually reinvent itself. Although some immigrants, especially those of North African origin, have had difficulty integrating into French life, there is a more hopeful side to this story. As in the United States, many people in France are committed to their country’s tradition of human rights and being a safe haven for foreigners. And France benefits economically and culturally from the energy and talent of its foreign-born citizens, as well as those who, despite being born in France and thus being French, are sometimes seen as other because of their family origins.

Such is the theme of this week’s featured pop star, Souad Massi. Born in Algeria in 1972, Massi had an eclectic musical background. Her parents loved traditional Algerian, French pop, and American soul music. Several of her family members played jazz. She learned guitar at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Alger and soon became known as a modern, passionate singer—a politically dangerous image at the time in Algeria. After an artistic director of Universal Music discovered her in 1999 at a French festival of Algerian women, she moved to France. Her music—usually in Arabic, sometimes in French, and occasionally in English—has been described as a blending of Algerian, French, and “Anglo-Saxon” musical traditions.

Below is a video of Massi singing “Talit El Bir.” It’s a longer, more developed version of a song that appears on her third Album, Mesk Elil (“Honeysuckle,” 2006). The lyrics are in Arabic, and she begins by saying in French, “Vous nous aidez un peu si vous avez envie. Je force pas.” (“Help us a little if you feel like it. I’m not forcing anyone.”)