All in all, more of a 'French' record than an Algerian one, but none the worse for...
John Armstrong 2003-04-04
One of the problems for non-Arabic speakers with Arabic music is that after a while it all begins to sound a little - well, the same. Young Algerian chanteuse Saoud Massi neatly eschews the difficulty on this, her second album, with as fine a mixture of moods, textures, arrangements and styles as one could ever wish for. The overall approach is Franco-Arabic chanson. 'Ya Kelbi' has the flavour of vintage Judy Collins with its affecting string quartet sound behind acoustic guitar and understated North African darbouka drum, whilst 'Passe le Temps' and 'Le Bien et le Ma' are moving ballads that could just as easily have come from the pen of Georges Brassens or Serge Gainsbourg.
The French and Algerian predilection for flamenco is well-served by two very different compositions. 'Ech Edani' isa rousing flamenco-rumba along the lines of 'Alabina' (this reviewer can vouch for its effectiveness on the dancefloor, having played it twice to a latin dance crowd to much acclaim).'Houria' isa more reflective piece along the lines of a traditional Cadiz buleria or tangos.
Yet another tune that makes this album unmistakably Parisian is the Congolese soukous-flavoured 'Yawlidi'.This is by no means the first time the Paris scene has made the Afro-Caribbean-Algerian connection (there was even a band in the 80s called 'Zouk-Rai'). However it's done with so much taste andu se of vocal hooklines - including the sudden appearance towards the end of what sounds like a Lingala 'animateur' -it actually soundstotally fresh.
'Ghir Enta' brings us deep into oud territory, only to shift seamlessly into an introspective tango-waltz. Again with the lovely string-quartet flavours and a darkness that reminds one of Monsieur Chanson-Noir himself, Paolo Monte. 'Thegri' has fine acoustic guitar accompanying Arabic flute, played almost like an old-fashioned slide-flute. And of course, every album has to have the natural radio-friendly track. In Souad's case, this is the opener, 'Deb', a unique song that needs to be heard rather than described
All in all, more of a "French" record than an Algerian one, but none the worse for that.In fact, much the better for it,bearing in mind the comparative freedomParis' melting-pot style gives to a young singer whom we'll be hearing much more of in the future.