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'I have the right not to perform in a country which murders children': Souad Massi

Ahram Online's sister French paper Ahram Hebdo talks to the renowned Algerian singer Souad Massi, who explains why she refuses to sing in Israel, and reflects on her recent concerts in Cordoba and Morocco

Houda El-Hassan, Thursday 21 Aug 2014
Souad Massi
Souad Massi (Photo: still from Massi's live performance uploaded on YouTube)
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Ahram Hebdo (AH): You have been invited to perform at the music festival in Tel Aviv. Time and again, you refused to sing in Israel. How do you explain this choice?

Souad Massi (SM): Each time I receive an invitation that comes from this city, I decline. It's for the simple reason: I sing for peace in the world, while the Israeli government is not doing much to achieve this purpose. It's important to say that there are Israeli citizens who strongly oppose the policy of their country and advocate respect of right to life but I will never sing for them on this ground.

AH: There were times that the European media called you anti-Semitic for your stances on this issue. How do you comment on that?

SM: I think that as a singer who has principles in life, I have the right not to perform in a country which murders small children, housewives, pregnant women, the elderly, a country whose soldiers shoot at anything that moves, especially at the most vulnerable ones. Look at what is happening in Gaza these days. Singing in Tel Aviv would simply mean endorsing policy of Israel.

AH: And how exactly do you work for peace?

SM: I think that any singer who chooses to sing for peace in the world should not limit himself to rhetoric we find in the newspapers on this subject. One should not only navigate within the pleasurable sides that the field provides and be ready to make big financial sacrifices. We should also sing in the conflict zones (Gaza for instance), in the prisons of Guantánamo and or in the plains of Saharan Maghreb, etc. This rule also applies to me.

AH: What artistic tools do you use to express your philosophy?

SM: The main stream songs begin to lose their credibility, especially in the face of the festivals aiming at working for peace in the world. Everybody is free to sing for the sole purpose of commercialising their albums, yet personally, I prefer to belong to the revolutionary songs, in specific those influenced by World Music. This music allows me to stand by the marginalised through dedicating some songs to them, and accommodates singing in several languages, including one's native language.

AH: During your last concert in Morocco – where you sang together with Spanish singer Eric Fernandez – you gave tribute to the city of Córdoba and its Andalusian heritage. Tell us more about this experience.

SM: Recently, the Córdoba's heritage has become of a great interest to me. Honestly, in the past I did not pay that much attention to this city but when I started reading books about the riches of this secular city, I decided to dedicate one concert to it. And I had an opportunity to do so alongside the great singer Eric Fernandez. My songs expressed love that I developed for this city.

AH: And what about your love story with Morocco? You gave ten concerts in Morocco in 2014 alone.

SM: Morocco is very close culturally to my country, Algeria. Obviously, we are neighbours. But I say it with whole sincerity that I love the country. Recently sang in Mawazine [a music festival that takes place in Rabat] and by the time I went home I'd been contacted by the French Institute of Casablanca. I also performed in Tétouan, Kenitra, and El-Jadida. And I will definitely perform in Morocco again, should the opportunity arise.

AH: Are you working on new songs now or preparing for a new album?

SM: I always write music. We will see what year 2015 will bring...

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