Algerian singer Suad Massi is releasing a new album, El Mutakallimun (translated as The Masters of the World) which reinterprets ten classic songs from around the Arab world, from “Sa’imtou”, the Muallaqa of the 6th century poet Zuhayr Ibn Abi Salma, to poetry by Abu Kassem El Shabbi whose poem “The Will to Life” was made internationally famous by the Arab Spring.
El Mutakallimun can be pre-ordered now from Amazon.
Consisting of ten songs translated into English and French accompanied by elegant calligraphy, “El mutakallimun” (“The masters of the word”) mixes eras, with for example the poet of the sixth century Zoheir Ibn Abi Selma and the Tunisian poet of the early twentieth century Abou El Kacem El Chebbi, whose verses were taken over by protesters during the Arab Spring in 2011.
Literally the album’s title means The Speakers, but since it is taken from ilm-al-kalam, it would be more accurately translated as defenders of the faith – and the album is, according to Massi, a way to reclaim the Arab world from being swallowed up by the rhetoric of terrorism.
“The Arab world is vast and I am sad that it is often associated with terrorism. I lived through the civil war in Algeria; I have suffered from terrorism as many people. It is unfair that we are associated with this picture, unfair to all journalists who are behind bars. I wanted to talk about the dark side of the Arab world.”
Mass’s reworking of Arabic classics began with the project Choeur de Cordoue (“Cordoba Choirs”) in which she and Eric Fernandez reinterpreted the poetry and songs of Cordoba of the ninth and tenth centuries.