Soumia Ghechami: interview with Algerian birthday girl and strandberg artist.

Guitarist Soumia Ghechami currently lives in Batna, Algeria. She has been making a name for herself in the underground guitar scene, delivering high quality guitar work in music competitions and . We caught up with Soumia to ask her a few questions about how she became a player and what makes her tick musically.

[Laurie Monk] When did you start playing guitar?

[Soumia Ghechami] 
My very first memory of listening to music, I remember my sister had some West Life, Blue and Avril Lavigne CDs laying around, I used to listen to them on repeat and I just really loved how they sounded, as I wasn't really exposed much to music in my family, my parents aren't really music listener.. So, I really had to dig in by myself and discover music through CDs and Youtube.

I actually started playing piano first for about a year back in 2009 with my cousins, it was at a classical music conservatory but I knew I always liked the sound of guitar more and soon enough I decided to switch. I remember borrowing a wacky classical guitar from a friend of mine and it was a huge challenge for me to learn by myself, so I figured It would be a lot easier if I could find a teacher nearby to help me out and luckily I did find one who taught me the basics, but it didn't last much till I had to stop taking lessons due to my school busy schedule.

That didn't hold me back from moving forward and developing myself, I was dependent on different resources online, and was dedicated to learn at home, I even bought instructional books and DVDs.. etc.

It was a slow learning process at that time, because I wasn't fully committed and went through lot of pauses.

Until 2014, I got my own first classical guitar, I went back to the conservatory and decided to learn classical music. And from that period on I've been consistent. Classical guitar pieces definitely helped me level up my technique faster in a short amount of time.

Then by the end of 2015, I got my first electric guitar, a second hand blue Jackson JS30DK with a floyd rose. It was a great sounding guitar, I had a lot of fun with it. First thing I learnt was Hours of Wealth Solo by Opeth, I absolutely love Opeth, one of my favourite bands and I was pretty much more into leads than playing riffs or any type of chord progressions at that time.

[Laurie Monk] What made you decide to take guitar seriously?

[Soumia Ghechami]  I started taking guitar seriously when I first participated in a classical guitar competition back in June 2014 and I won first prize for playing Asturias by Isaac Albeniz. It was a very proud moment because it was also the first time I play on stage. It was very scary yet exciting to be on stage and performing, I knew I wanted to do it more often, but I also knew that I have to work harder everyday to perform at the level I wanted.

I kept practicing at home by myself and playing with friends when I could over the years, I liked composing and coming up with my own tunes, I also loved recording and sharing my ideas on social media, receiving feedback from people online was encouraging and pushed me to post more. Then people started asking me if I can play on their records or collaborate with them, I was, of course, delighted to do so. Then it was only recent, like about a year ago that I got really interested in session and playing live with artists here in Algeria.

[Laurie Monk] What are your favourite albums?

  • Guthrie Govan - Erotic Cakes
  • The Aristocrats - The Aristocrats
  • Summer Walker - Over It
  • Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)
  • Martin Miller - The Other End
  • Hiromi's Sonicbloom - Time Control
  • Valeriy Stepanov - VSAK 6

[Laurie Monk]  What do you think of the use of social media for promoting your work

[Soumia Ghechami] I like to share my music on different online platform such as YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. I think it's very interesting nowadays to use social media, because it really brings together artists from all around the world to collaborate or for instance, I've been invited several times by event organizers to perform or companies to make them music for their ads. Facebook and Instagram are definitely more easy than YouTube when it comes to gaining followers/subscribers.

[Laurie Monk] Who are your main guitar influences, or musicians?

[Soumia Ghechami]

  • Guthrie Govan
  • Nazim Kri
  • Ole Borud
  • Valeriy Stepanov
  • Kirk Franklin
  • Israel Houghton
  • Lalah Hathaway
  • Tigran Hamasyan
  • Dhafer Youssef
  • Hiromi
  • Jess Lewis
  • Yvette Young
  • Sarah Longfield
  • Lari Basilio
  • Nili Brosh
  • Karim Ziad
  • Youcef Boukella
  • Marcus Miller
  • Victor Wooten

[Laurie Monk] Have you ever had any live show disasters?

[Soumia Ghechami] I wouldn't really call this a disaster, but I've almost made a disaster falling walking backwards on my drummer because the stage was too small and I was too hyped playing hahaha.

[Laurie Monk] Can you let me know how you use video for promotion?

[Soumia Ghechami]  Yes, I actually really enjoy making videos and I really put effort into them. It is very important for me to put out something presentable and eye catching/pleasing respecting the frame, lighting and video/audio quality.

Soumia Ghechami: Strandberg Boden Original 8 * String Prog Metal in B Minor

[Laurie Monk] What do you think of the scene for female guitar players?

[Soumia Ghechami] About who's making waves in female guitar playing, I think Lari Basilio and Nili Brosh are absolutely amazing, they both have the tone, control, musicality... they are just flawlessly amazing for me. Then there's Yvette Young, very creative, inspiring, always putting out the most beautiful, fresh melodies, and especially the fact that she also plays piano and violin perfectly, that just adds up to her awesomeness and she really inspires me a lot.

Sarah Longfield on the other hand, I love her cause she's more into metal/prog, very techy, creative electronic music creator and multi-instrumentalist. She writes, records and produces by her own and that's what really drawn me to her. Last but not least, Jess Lewis is another flawless guitarist, most talented I've came across, she also plays bass and that inspired to pick up and learn bass myself, I've been a fan of her ever since she was on JTC, when she covered Wonderful Slippery Thing by Guthrie Govan, and played with Alex Hutchings.

In Algeria, sadly there aren't much guitar players here, let alone session players... I think I'm one of two here, the other girl plays bass, and I've only knew about her last summer thanks to a festival called Raconte Arts. I was pretty hyped knowing there's another girl who's into session rather than singing/playing guitar type of performance. The scene here is definitely male dominated. Expect I'd say in classical music, there are definitely more girls who play violin, double bass, piano, cello ... and in traditional Algerian music such as malouf and chaabi, there are also more female players who play Qanun, Algerian Mondol, Oud.

[Laurie Monk] Can you tell us a bit about your Guitars and Amps?

[Soumia Ghechami]
I use mostly strandberg guitars, I have an original Boden 8, a classic 6 and a Boden 5 string bass. I choose this brand because of how comfortable, ergonomic, light weight and effortless in playing they are. I love their diversity, they are just professional, premium and great sounding guitars. I've always been a fan and I'm very happy to be lately endorsed by them.

Artist Endorsement: Unboxing .strandberg* Guitar + Bass + Demo

For home recording, I use my focusrite 2i2 interface plugged into my PC, and for effects, I've always used BIAS FX and I also love the new Neural DSP. For live shows, I use pedals, and planning to upgrade into a more compact set up like the FM3.

[Laurie Monk] Can you tell us about your latest recording?

[Soumia Ghechami] I don't have any albums out yet, but I'm always in the making/composing mode. I definitely want to put out an Album or EP one day. I'm very drawn to Jazz Fusion type of composing. Something like this:

I'm also very open to other genres, whatever that inspires me and represents how I feel in that particular moment.

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