Souad Massi,
Mesk Elil (Honeysuckle)
(Wrasse, 2005)

There is a melancholy that runs through many of the songs on Mesk Elil (which translates to "Honeysuckle"), but it is an elegant and beautiful thing. Souad Massi's voice gives it strength and grace of form. The music adds so much to this that you can get the feel of the songs without understanding a word of what she sings; fortunately, they have provided the lyrics in English, as she seldom sings in that language.

Massi began her career with the Algerian political rock band Atakor, but the dangerous political climate in Algeria soon forced her to flee for safer environs in Paris, France.

The opening notes of "Soon (Kilyoum)" can be a bit jarring, but once Souad starts singing the melody is partnered to her voice. The themes of distance, change and parting continue in first the music and then the lyrics of "That's Life (Denya Wezmen)." The mood and tone of "Inspiration (Ilham)" continue on past the sorrow of the first two songs, as the lyrics also continue on likewise.

There is a quiet longing that runs through "Mesk Elil" and there is much beauty in it. Daby Toure lends his voice to her for "I Won't Forget My Roots/Marinsa Asli (Miwawa)," and their voices weave together delightful well. She then sings about the roots on an individual as "My Grandfather's House (Dar Dgedi)" shows where a person comes from. She sings of another's pain in "There's Worse (Hagda Wala Akter)" and treats it with respect.

Her duet with Pascal Danae, "Tell Me Why," is the only song with English in it, and the track shows some of the hopes and fears of the heart. There is a brief conversation in her duet with Rabah Khalfa, "Let Me (Khalouni)," on which the percussion drives the music to the end. The music returns to its full gracefulness in "Why is My Heart Sad (Malou)" as the questions in the lyrics are asked without answers. The music swirls and twists round itself in "Mahli (Remix)," with the lyrics sliding into the music as it shouts unto the skies.

Every now and then someone proves that you can understand the heart of a song without understanding the words. Souad Massi does this on Mesk Elil. That they have translated the lyrics is an added bonus. The music is beautiful in its sorrow and passion, and somehow while it can bring your heart to weep it lifts you back up in the end.

Listen to her and let her music sweep you away.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Paul de Bruijn

28 March 2009

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new