Where words merge with music

Souad Massi 'credit Jean-Baptiste Millot
Souad Massi 'credit Jean-Baptiste Millot

The TalkingGigs series returns to Sheffield for a third year of innovative music events starting with the international star, Souad Massi – Algeria’s finest female singer – at the newly refurbished Merlin Theatre in a special afternoon session from 1pm on Sunday, September 11.

The unique format of TalkingGigs is that musical guests are interviewed about their life and work, interspersed with songs that explain or expand on the narrative.

Souad Massi is a perfect choice, not only an outstanding musician but someone with a fascinating and turbulent back story, growing up as a female musician in 1990s Algeria.

Her latest album, El Mutakallimoun, also provides an often hidden perspective on Arab history with a culture of openness, intellect and tolerance which contrasts sharply with many modern portrayals of the Arab world.

On Tuesday Blick Bassy from Cameroon, whose song Kiki from his current album was chosen for Apple’s iPhone6 advertising campaign, will be at Yellow Arch .

Also there over the coming months are the UK’s category-defying band Spiro and Sona Jobarteh from Gambia who is recognised as the first female kora virtuoso.

Indie legend Robyn Hitchcock, whom many think the closest thing the genre has to a Bob Dylan, will be at the Greystones on October 30.

A real contrasting set of artists, but in the words of TalkingGigs founder Charles Ritchie, “all with something interesting to say and play”.

He says that the style of each gig is different to suit the artist but they usually feature a first half of chat and music and a second half of full-on music.

He got the idea from WOMAD, the annual world music festival, where many of the main stage bands would also do a workshop which he often enjoyed as much as their main performance – so determined to bring a bit of WOMAD to Sheffield.

Visit www.talkinggigs.co.uk for details.