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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa

SOUAD MASSI

By Tom Pryor

Deb (Heartbroken)
Wrasse

Algerian-born singer/songwriter Souad Massi combines earnest folk-rock, Arab-Andalusian passion and Parisian cool into a moving, sometimes heartrending mix. Her acoustic guitar is buoyed by percolating North African percussion and the occasional oud or cello. Singing in a mix of French and Arabic, Massi appropriates the liberated beur stance of her fellow Algerian emigrants, but unlike the boys' club of contemporary rai, her lyrics explore the emotional interiors of people negotiating their way between two cultures ("houria," "bel el madhi"). She doesn't shy away from writing more universal material, either, and writes gorgeous lovesongs full of melancholy and heartbreak ("Ghir Enta," "Ech Edani"). But for all the drama, Massi also knows how to loosen up and rock out, with luminous pop tracks such as "Yawlidi." Overall, this album is a luminous gem from one of the most promising new artists on the world music scene.