July 6, 2011 / 11:20 AM / 7 years ago

Arab Spring's songbird brings "Liberty" to the West Bank

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Three months after Algerian singer Souad Massi released her latest album “O Houria” (Liberty), revolution was sweeping the Arab world.

The songwriter and guitarist acclaimed for her extraordinary voice predicts no quick end to the popular uprisings that are reshaping the Middle East.

And she thinks it is only matter of time before the Arab Spring reaches Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank, where she performed at a sell-out concert on Tuesday.

“What would have been a miracle in the past, can today happen,” said Massi, whose latest album, released in October, includes three songs on the theme of revolution. They include “Let Me Be In Peace,” a duet with British star Paul Weller.

The track, she says, is dedicated to the Palestinians, who have waged two major Intifadas, or uprisings, against Israel in the last three decades.

“Things have changed. The people are now the force of renewal,” Massi told a news conference packed with Palestinian journalists in Ramallah. “The winds of revolution will certainly reach you.”

Addressing delighted fans under a starry West Bank sky, she reiterated that message on stage during her performance at the annual Palestine International Festival -- her second concert in Ramallah.

Blending sounds from north Africa, the broader Arab world, Flamenco, pop and American folk, her songs touch on themes including love, exile and her homeland and are mainly written in Algerian dialect and French.

Her early career was threatened by Algeria’s civil war, which broke out in 1991. Musicians and artists were targeted in the conflict between the state and armed Islamist groups. Raised in a working-class area of Algiers, she moved to France in 1999.

A success in France and north Africa, Massi has begun to achieve wider fame in the eastern Arab world, where Egyptian and Lebanese pop stars tend to dominate the airwaves.

Her album “Liberty” addresses issues including the oppression faced by women in Arab north Africa and racial discrimination in France.

Political oppression in the Arab world was also on her mind when producing the album, which was partly inspired by the writings of the 14th Century Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldoun.

”After the album came out, what happened in the Arab countries and everybody was asking me: ‘How did you know this was going to happen?“ she said. ”When I used to meet young people with spirit and enthusiasm, I imagined that it could.

“I was very happy that something I’d thought of before the album had come to pass,” she added. “The rulers and sultans are no longer the power. The situation has changed in all the Arab countries.”

Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta editing by Paul Casciato

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