Saida Fikri is a Moroccan
singer-songwriter well known in North Africa and Western Europe for
expressing powerful personal and social themes in an original,
cosmopolitan style of music.
Saida’s eclectic songs combine elements of rock, blues, jazz, folk,
pop, country and reggae, but all with a subtle Middle Eastern touch.
The ‘eastern’ traces in Saida’s music include gnawi, rai, chaabi,
Andalusian, Berber and classical Arabic rhythms. Her lyrics are written
in the Moroccan dialect of Arabic, French, and English.
The result of this global fusion is one of a kind : Saida has taken
in the best of the world’s musical traditions, yet she doesn’t sound
like anyone else in the world.
In terms of orchestration, Saida’s repertory can be divided into two
kinds. On the one hand, ‘big’ songs like “Zmane Naga” and “Ait
Mankhabbi” are supported by numerous instruments and backup singers.
Their ‘fast’ and exciting rhythms always inspire the audience to sway
and dance along.
On the other hand, Saida is also a master of the ‘small’ and ‘quiet’
song in the style of Joan Baez or Joni Mitchell, performed solo with a
guitar, or sometimes as a duet with another acoustique instrument. The
best example of this genre is the much loved “Misiria” , a blistering
attack on the indifference and hypocrisies of fatcats and corrupt
officials. Or in the words of Mohamed Lotfi, a journalist for Radio
Canada, "One voice, one guitar and words which bluntly portray a
society where injustice, inequality and patriarchical abuse of power are
still the rule".
Saida’s music is thus not just music. It is also something serious,
conveying complex emotions and social statements. Her music displays a
special concern for the hardships, struggles and suffering of the
ordinary people of Morocco. There are nostalgic meditations on the
experiences of emigrants. There are elegies to the forgotten people of
society. There are cries for justice. There is social criticism. In
other words, Saida is a principled artist whose principles are justice,
truth, and honesty. Asked "what does Saida sing?", a young man
of 18 at a Saida Fikri concert in Rabat replied, "She sings about
Saida Fikri is also a social pioneer in the Middle East and North
Africa. Normally, a female singer in this part of the world performs
the songs written for her by men. But Saida not only sings, but also
writes her own outspoken lyrics, composes her own music and performs
with the guitar. In fact, Saida was the first Moroccan woman to appear
in public holding a guitar.
This troublemaker, a native of Casablanca, grew up listening to the
songs of Joan Baez, Dolly Parton and Bob Dylan. She started playing the
guitar at age of 8 and wrote her first song at 12. She soon found
herself in the formal study of music at the Conservatory of Casablanca.
Her musical career of tackling her country's biggest taboos took off in
1994 with her debut album “Nadmana”, at a time when the freedom of
expression was still limited, well before the political liberalisation
started by the current king.
Her music being an immediate commercial success, it was not long
before Saida was touring all over Morocco and Europe. The government of
Belgium invited her to sing as the representative of the modern North
African woman, a performance before tens of thousands in Brussels’s
Great Square. Saida has also performed at the prestigious Paradiso club in Amsterdam, a presitigous venue
reserved for big international stars. In April of 2008, Saida and her
group of 5 musicians went on her first North American tour, performing
on stage in New York, Boston, Washington DC (the Rosslyn Spectrum
Theatre) and Montreal (Kola Note).
At the concert held on 20 May 2008 in Morocco’s capital city of Rabat
for the Mawazine International Music Festival, Saida performed before a
cheering crowd of over 30,000 who sang along with her and recited her
repertory word for word.