This is Souad Massi’s [Yawlidi]
Souad Massi is a North African city planner who lives now in France after she lost her job years ago when all things where up in the air in Algeria. The song title means [My Son]. It is written from the point of view of a mother who is telling her son he should wake up early, to go to school, learn to read and become someone important and later you will abandon us and you will destroy those will stand in your way, but you still have to wake up early.
I like to think of it as a funny song about people you support and encourage and then turn on you.
I should tell you that this song is not typical of the album, the rest has a folksier feel with lots of Andalusian influences. There is a song called [Yemma (Mother, I lie to you)] which will break your heart. It’s about a girl calling her mother back home telling her all is OK, I need no money and people don’t insult me on the street. Love it.
One of the reasons I am not such a big fan of contemporary Arabic pop is that they never got past the boy-meets-girl template. 99.9% of Arabic pop is really just saying things like “Oh habibi my heart burns, when can I see you, your dad won’t let me marry you”. This wasn’t always the case many of the songs from the 60s have a political subtext and many are still very popular today like our new Iraqi national anthem.
The only Arab songwriter’s who have escaped that epidemic of musical apathy seem to be the north African musicians. The music is fun and deals with life beyond the broken hearts club.
The problem for me is that although I call those musicians Arab I actually had to look up the English translation of Souad’s songs to understand them. The dialect is just to different, for me it doesn’t even sound like Arabic and my Arabic would sound just as difficult for an Algerian to understand. And I also believe that the differences are not merely linguistic but also cultural.
One Arab nation under a groove? I don’t really believe that exists any longer. Pan Arabian Nationalism is a dinosaur, let it die, look at it in a museum and allow yourselves to acknowledge your differences. And saying that amounts in many Arab’s book to heresy, but hey what do I have to worry about after I was described in a Guardian headline as “the profane arab blogger”.
Yes we have a common history but today? Now? We need to find the common ground again. I think it is a bit like Europe. It is more difficult than gluing together something you think might have belonged to the same antique vase.
Back to music. The point is I always get excited when I hear music that still has Arabic influences and breaks the moulds. Another brilliant example is Rachid Taha, you should check his album [Tekitoi] out.
Another sort of music coming from the Arab world I really get excited about is the bastard son of House the Lebanese are producing these days. Lebanon will save the Arab world through the sheer power of hedonism and killer good looks they have. The only Arabs who know how to party and I assume the shit loads of drugs they consume helps a lot.
The following music link is an all out, no punches pulled, big drums, Tabla and strings, 2am hands in the air bastard. Arab-House at its hip breaking best.
Lela Lela – REG Project