A Musical Journey from East to West
PHOTO CREDITS 2:
Photo by Amr Mounib
Styled by Renée Atallah
In A Glimpse
Born in a region torn between tragedy and bliss, and a land known for its harmonious contrasts, Mike Massy has managed to mark the music scene with an indelible imprint.
With his sophisticated, nostalgic music rooted in the mystic East and engulfed in the refinement of the West, his simple yet deep lyrics, and his distinctive penetrating voice, Massy has achieved a unique identity scented with the essence of character, style and elegance.
Multicultural by nature, the intuitive and innovative artist has embarked on a voyage into the various realms of music. From songwriting to score composition, and through his various albums and collaborations, Mike Massy has navigated Andalusian Muwashahs, Arabic Tarab and Baroque harmonies, swinging between the rhythms of Jazz, the passion of Tango, and the pain of Flamenco. Throughout, he has remained faithful to his only belief that music is a never ending expedition packed with the treasures of the past but continuously seeking new horizons.
With his highly acclaimed albums, film scores, local and international concerts, Mike Massy has positioned himself as one of the most versatile and multifaceted artists. His exceptional skills in blending genres have allowed him to produce widely diverse works which remain, however, recognizable to his unique touch. His exceptional talent has brought him to collaborate with international artists from all over the world. He has also performed as a featured artist in international festivals and halls and was invited to give lectures in prestigious universities among which Stanford.
Today, Massy pursues his international career with an undying passion as he keeps on exploring new shores in the captivating world of music.
Musical Journey and Influences
Originally from the Phoenician town of Anfeh, Mike Massy was born and raised in the city of Jounieh in 1982. Amidst the raging battles and the ugliness of war, he found a haven in the angelic voice of Feyrouz and the nostalgic melodies of Zaki Nassif.
Soon, he was fascinated by the new world he had discovered and at the age of nine, he started his first piano lessons. Growing up, he was draw to the authentic poetry of Brel and the effortlessness grandeur of Aznavour.
At the age of 12, Mike Massy joined the National High Conservatory where he continued his classical piano training. At seventeen, his deep natural curiosity and immense love of challenge pushed him to learn Arabic Opera and old Andalusian “Mouwachahats.” He also trained in Oriental and Occidental singing.
However, Mike’s artistic thirst was not quenched. Driven by his passion for theatre, he joined the Faculty of Fine Arts where graduated in Drama. Simultaneously, he followed Jazz Ballet courses at the Arabesque dancing school, eventually joining its acclaimed troupe.
Mike Massy’s composing and singing started very early on when he was a child behind a piano. His innate talent and solid musical and artistic education evolved into a new style marked with novelty, distinctiveness and refinement, remaining both simple and inimitable.
• Ila Sama’I Atba’ouka – I will follow you to the heavens- 2003
• Ya Zaman- November 2011
• Tannoura Maxi -2012
• Naseej -2014
Close up on Naseej
Woven with exquisite craftsmanship, Naseej lives up to its Arabic name of “woven fabric.” Released in 2014 in the astonishing ancient setting of the Zouk Mikael International Festival held at the Roman amphitheatre, the album showcases Mike Massy’s dexterous production skills and his versatile agility in travelling through Arabic Maqams and contemporary styles. Bringing together Mike Massy and the talented Khalifé brothers Ayad and Sary in ajoint composing endeavor initiated by Massy,Naseej gives a new voice to the Soufi poetry of Al Hallaj and examines the old Andalusian Muwashahat through a neo-classical contemporary jazzy lens. The album knits into music, verses from the famous prayer of Indian philosopher Tagore and features, in a vocal masterpiece, a duo gathering Mike Massy with the internationally acclaimed Lebanese Diva Fadia Tomb El-Hage. Eclectic and daring, Naseej is “a daring musical project,” as Massy describes it, which journeys beyond borders into the realm of musical heritage –Hanady Assaf
ONE-ON-ONE WITH MIKE MASSY
INTERVIEW CONDUCTED BY
YOUR MOTTO IN LIFE
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOURSELF?
I would not be able to define myself. If I ever reach that point, it would mean that there is nothing more to learn about myself and this would be really sad.
DID FAME CHANGE YOU?
I wouldn’t say I’m famous. I would prefer to say that I’m busy making art. Jim Carrey once said, ‘I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of, so they can see that it’s not the answer.’
WHAT IS THE ULTIMATE QUESTION THAT YOU NEED TO FIND AN ANSWER TO?
The existential questions that always recur. What are we doing and what are we doing it for… Why these things and not those… Why are we here and not there. If we don’t find answers, or at least illusions, it would be a disaster. We need to have illusions about people and life so we keep our dreams alive.
DID YOU CHANGE? IN WHAT WAYS?
One never changes; we only learn to embrace who we really are. I died several times yes, and came back to life. This was the bravest decision I have made. There have been times when I committed suicide on a deaf silent sunday afternoon, times when I killed parts of me and times when I totally died. A few days ago I was saying that one doesn’t die of love but I guess I was wrong.
WHY MUSIC? IS IT AN ESCAPE? AN URGE TO CREATE?
The more we remain silent, the more we will be hearing our inside screaming out loud. Once when Colette was writing in the “Jardin des Tuilleries”, her students came to ask her: “Colette, what is happiness?”, she couldn’t but answer: “ It is simply moving on to other troubles.” In order to keep ourselves busy, we sometimes complicate our schedules with buildings, parking lots, supermarkets, or simply try different countries and relationships. We all need to create our lives at some point. Otherwise we’d become slaves of boredom. This is why I write music so I can embrace my silence and my fears.
COULD YOU DEFINE MUSIC IN ONE WORD?
It is the salvation of mankind.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE ART NOWADAYS?
Art has always been a mirror of what we are and what we live. Contemporary art is a free land with no frontiers and no restrictions. It is a space where beauty becomes relative and where ugliness can create the most beautiful masterpieces.
CAN YOU FLY US THROUGH YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?
Inspiration always surprises me in the most unexpected moments. Stories of rain and nice weather, little drops and wet benches; voyages, cruel airports, and disappointing illusions are a source of inspiration. I usually run away from my own songs. When I put down my words on paper, I doubt about myself and read them again and again to see if they actually make sense. In music as in life, one cannot speak his words without breathing. Rhythms, scales and notes usually come along with my words as breath with movement. Most of the time, I cannot compose when I am in pain. However, my wounds should not have healed completely, for giving birth to a story needs some grief. I am an early bird when it comes to applying the ideas, but it is the night that is the confidant for every emotion. Yes. We are lonely. And lonelier at night.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOUR ALBUM YA ZAMAN AND NASEEJ?
In Naseej lies a lot of myself but this project also holds an objective aspect. When I decided to create this project as a trio, I needed to be understood from Sary and Ayad. I felt the urge to put bits and pieces of myself in it but I also had to protect and respect my partners in crime. Naseej is not only a cerebral project, it also has a heart and a soul. I had to grow through the texts that I loved and adopted. Artistic maturity, and technical maturity are not quite the same. There would have been no resemblance at all between Naseej and my first album if it weren’t for the bits ‘n pieces of me here and there. Some people would feel like finding me back in my upcoming album, as I believe some of them lost me with Naseej. Nevertheless, I insist on protecting my space of freedom, the wings that every artist needs in order to grow.
AND YOU? WOULD YOU FIND YOURSELF?
I haven’t lost myself. I just hid a little from my own self. But as usual, it didn’t work. Even in Naseej, the music reveals who I really am.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE MOMENT DURING THE PRODUCTION OF ONE OF YOUR ALBUMS?
In the first album, I was in a coma. I cannot remember but I guess that my favorite moment was when I first saw the CD printed out. I couldn’t believe my eyes. As it was made in a naive way, one track after the other, one step at a time. In Naseej, I can remember three strong moments; first when we made it happen and I signed the agreement with the Zouk International Festival who produced the project. Second, when I heard Fadia Tomb El-Hage’s voice merging with mine, and third, when after a while, I listened to the CD in December, in my car –after it was released in August and I realized: it’s beautiful after all.
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ABOUT CRITICS?
Critics need to go through a selection process. When they’re constructive, you need to face them, take a deep breath, use them as steps to climb on, and move forward. When they are nonconstructive, you need to marshmallow them so they do not hurt your feet when you smash them.
WHAT COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEW ALBUM?
It will be a Lebanese one. I shouldn’t take much time to finalize it otherwise I would censor many words. I believe I need to confront myself and embrace the sensitive part of me. I’m healing.
IF YOU WERE TO ACCLAIM ANYTHING NOW WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I’m very different from the person I was five years ago. Sometimes, I wonder why I have come to a point where I am not reacting. I respect myself now for my patience. It’s beyond what I’ve been expecting on both professional and personal levels. I respect people who are determined despite everything. I respect people who make decisions and assume them. My aunt once told me, ‘If I make a choice and if it’s not the right one, I just go for it. I don’t waste time regretting it.’
DO YOU HAVE ANY REGRETS?
I don’t know what regrets are anymore. Amnesia took over. (Laughs)
DO YOU LOOK UP TO ANYONE?
While aging, you’re more into understanding than into admiring. I admire the fact that one has to understand others’ reality and accept them the way they are.
DO YOU THINK THERE ARE ANY SOCIAL RULES TO ABIDE BY IN ORDER TO SUCCEED?
I guess you are asking the wrong question to the wrong person. All I can tell you is that When we are safe, we succeed but when we are adventurous, we shine. In 2015, you have your eyes fixed upon “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye” – The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint Exupéry
DO YOU THINK EVERYTHING IS REACHABLE OR SOME THINGS ARE BEST KEPT UNREACHED?
The unreachable is the ultimate dream of every illusion and that’s why we write songs to convince ourselves that we’re going to find something else, elsewhere. That is why we try other relationships, friendships, and countries. Because of all this mystery around the unreachable. Last time, I was discussing unreachable relationships with a friend and I told him that we’d better call them ‘relation’ and not “relationships”; ships might sink.
DO YOU HAVE ANY MESSAGE FOR THE YOUTH?
Behind every war there is fear. To reach a cease fire, you need courage.