Posted by on July 02, 2012 in Blog

By Nasser Siadat

2012 Summer Intern

The Kennedy Center in Washington DC should have prepared extra seats for last night’s Millennium Stage performance of the popular Algerian singer, Souad Massi. By the time Massi was testing the sound system more than an hour before show time, lines were already out the doors. Come show time, nearly one hundred were left standing to watch the performance from afar.

The performance was presented by the Embassy of Algeria and the US-Algeria Business Council to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Algeria’s independence this coming Thursday. After more than a century under French colonial rule, the Algerian War for Independence began in 1954 and lasted until July 5, 1962.

Massi first came on to the international music scene by a stellar break-out performance at a Parisian festival in 1999. Since then, she has travelled the globe and is quickly becoming the face of Algerian music. Her style is eclectic, simultaneously combining folklore with rock-n-roll and jazz with traditional Algerian rhythms. Adding to Massi’s unique style, it is not uncommon to hear a mixture of French, Arabic, and Berber lyrics in a single song. Many will recognize her hit single Raoui, which was part of the soundtrack for the controversial Sacha Baron Cohen comedy, The Dictator.

By bringing her North American tour to Washington DC at a time that coincides with the coming celebrations of America’s own independence, Massi hoped to shed light on this moment in her nation’s history given its relevance to au courant struggles around the Arab world in wake of the Arab spring.

Algerian Ambassador Abdallah Baali, a personal friend of the artist, was excited to speak about the importance of the event.

“We are here celebrating the 50th anniversary of our independence, which not only means a lot to us as Algerians, but means a lot to all Arabs and peoples around the world, especially as many are fighting for their independence today.”

Massi and her on-stage entourage encouraged crowd participation throughout the event, making the night an interactive cultural exchange.

While the official program asked attendees to refrain from standing in the aisles during the performance, it seemed an impossible task given the levels of excitement. By the end of the night, peoples of all ages and walks of life, both Arab and non-Arab, took to the aisles to dance to the rhythms of the darbuka – the traditional Algerian drums.

“Bringing a singer to the United States is for us an opportunity to showcase to the American people the rich cultural tradition of Algeria” said Ambassador Baali in an interview after the event. “Music has been around for forever and is one of the best ways to bring together different peoples, cultures, and nations.”

For those who were unable to attend last night’s performance, full recap of the event can be found online.

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