Souad Massi is that rarest of Algerian performers – she doesn't sing rai music. But more than that, she's an accomplished singer/songwriter, a kind of North African Tracy Chapman, although she works in the Maghrebi genre of sha'bi as much as she does in folk music or soft rock. Electric guitars and touches of flamenco, oud, and the Arabic bass gimbri all help bring a real distinctiveness to her sound, which certainly has more in common with many American '60s protest singers than her contemporaries in Africa (indeed, to some she's Joan Baez reborn). Coke's production (he has worked with Ben Harper) is very sympathetic, bringing a live feel to the record ("Matebkiche" is, in fact, completely live). "Bladi" is a perfectly catchy song, its oud line deftly leading into Massi's smoky voice, and "Nekreh El Kelb" has a vital urgency.
El-Mutakallimun (Masters of the Word) mixes, and only Souad knows how to do this, folk and rock, singing in Arabic whilst combining Fado style and African soul music. Her melodic songs are universally appealing, covering topics from love to politics. On "El Mutakallimun", Souad Massi has immersed herself in Arabic poetry and used some of the most significant poems from across the Millennium as the lyrics for her most beautiful collection of songs.
The sophomore album from the "Arabic Tracy Chapman." While that would imply a deep folk-guitar base for her music, that's really not the case. What the album is made of is an extremely eclectic mix of sounds. The base for it all is in Algerian and Andalusian musics, with rai, flamenco and Arab classical music being the main keystones. (…) Pick it up for a nice relaxed listen.