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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa

Souad Massi

By Tom Jackson
Published December 15, 2006

Honeysuckle (Mesk Elil)

Skipping to the end of this CD will reveal an unexpected treat: a worldbeat remix of the track “Ilham.” In tempo and approach, it feels a million miles away from the spare, acoustic sounds of Massi’s debut Raoui or even the gently Andalusian ballads of Deb. But Honeysuckle is a different kind of record. It swings. Okay, it swings gently. But from the start the listener can sing along, and not just with a sorrowful folk whisper. Massi’s aching delivery is still there in ballads like “In My Grandfather’s House” and the painfully raw “There’s Worse,” but this is a gutsier and, to these ears, more entertaining album than Deb. As one of that band of musicians who seem to exist within the world music genre more happily than they ever could outside it, Massi is almost unknown in North Africa, but in her adopted home of France she has become a significant presence. It is understandable—no one has the ability to express world-weary resignation with such sweetness.