The Algerian singer tells us about the plurality and poetry of music created by the Arab diaspora
Djazia Satour on the power of song
Algerian singer-songwriter Djazia Satour’s repertoire is always changing, and she has continuously shifted styles over her near 20-year career in the world of Middle Eastern music.
“There is a real contemporary Arab scene, with or without immigration,” she says, ahead of playing alongside Tunisian band Yuma at the Domaine d’O venue at Festival Arabesques last Thursday. “In France, it consists of artists of various origins, and with multiple registers.
“It includes immigrants of the second or third generation who want to reconnect with their culture of origin, but also newcomers who bring the artistic dynamism of the countries they came from. In France, there is plurality to Arabic music [and each style] enriches the other.”
Born in Algiers in 1980, Satour moved with her family to Grenoble in southern France at the age of 10, and at 15 she discovered music, eventually touring alongside Gnawa Diffusion, an Algerian band also based in Grenoble.
In 2014, she released her debut album, Alwane (Colours), after a string of EP releases. Her music includes elements of soul, blues, folk, trip-hop and electronica, all paired with traditional Algerian instruments.
Satour is now gearing up for the release of her second album Aswat (Voices) on October 26. The record’s lead song Neghmat Erriah (The Wind Melody) has already been released, and that was intentional.
“I wanted this song to open the album because it symbolises the voices that reach us today from all over the world, carried by all the current means of communication, much like the echoes that the wind brings to us from all sides, sometimes from afar, in defiance of the borders,” she muses. “These intermingled voices become distinct in the other songs [in the album] to express hope, expectation, suffering,” she explains.
In Ghounia (Song), Satour sings about the strength it takes to remain free and independent, with a particular nod to the Palestinian people and their struggle and search to find freedom, justice and equal rights in their homeland.
“I speak of the strength of the song knowing how to remain free and independent. This song does not lock itself into any frame. It is indomitable and bright. It is a voice that can take up other voices, as in this album, and imagine the feelings of being exiled, the feelings of the refugee and one who is dispossessed of their country while still living there. This is the case of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories,” she says.
“These are the singular voices that affect me personally, and that participate in the emotional message that I pass primarily through the language of music.”
When asked about how this album differs from her previous collections, Satour says that it sounds different because “it bears more clearly the mark of traditional Algerian instruments.”
These musical tools include the banjo, mandolin, violin and the tar – a single-head, frame drum. And the sounds of these are evident in the single Neghmant Erriah.
“This new album was an unprecedented experience for me, in which I constantly searched for a new balance, a particular sound. The evolution is self-evident. It is not thoughtful.
“There is undoubtedly a constant, which is maintained, but at the same time I unceasingly discover new forms of writing, which enriches me. I have often said that I would need nine lives to be able to make the albums featuring the many styles of music I like. With Aswat, I feel that I am just beginning to know how to specify a musical identity of my own. But I know this is a path that is only starting to open. That’s why the album is called Aswat (Voices).”
Djazia Satour’s new album Aswat will be released on October 26