The smooth talker

Rising Ottawa hip-hopper Massari combines old school R&B with Middle Eastern melody.

Massari, AKA Sari Abboud, lives the life of a smooth talker. His words are like the fine-tailored white suit he wears on the cover of his debut CD—silky and sleek. A request for background information turns into a calling card for a burgeoning Don Juan at a singles’ bar. When asked how old he is, he responds quickly: “I’m 24, Sagittarius.” Just in case anyone astrologically-inclined was wondering.

Of course, the Lebanese-Canadian is single. In his line of profession—soulful R&B singer—it’s almost a pre-requisite for the position.

“I’m Canada’s bachelor, my man,” he says with an almost visible wink over the phone from a tour stop in Vancouver. “I am looking, but right now I’m having fun touring.”

Massari started his career in Ottawa, releasing a single, “Spitfire,” in 2002 on his friend’s Capital Prophet Records, an indie label distributed nationally by MapleMusic and Universal. After the success of that record, the business administration graduate from Algonquin College got to work on his self-titled full-length of bumpin’ club tracks and down-tempo ballads.

But Massari’s story begins long before he ever drove a Lamborghini onto his video shoot for “Be Real.” Massari was born in Beirut, Lebanon, fleeing the country when he was 10 years old because of the tensions that ripped apart the population. Settling in Montreal and eventually Ottawa with his parents and two brothers, Massari got into North American music to go along with the Middle Eastern melodies he grew up loving. He’s into Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, as well as Arabic singer George Wassouf. He believes he’s the first Lebanese-Canadian R&B performer to chart on MuchMusic.

“I feel like I’m so blessed to have this opportunity to lead by example and lead in a positive way,” he says. “I feel like Canadian people are proud of me and I feel like Lebanese people are proud of me. And all people of Canada, no matter what background they are, they’re proud that someone from Canada is doing what I’m doing.”

Incorporating the two worlds into his music sets Massari apart from the rest of the field. His singing style has a decided Arabic lilt, underpinned by bass beats and skittering step production.

“When I began discovering my voice and discovering myself, I started composing and writing my own lyrics, I really started to make my own sound,” Massari says. “I would subconsciously put Middle Eastern melodies into my music because of my background.”

He says his music has been well received so far and if it hasn’t, one couldn’t tell from his bling-bling videos for singles “Smile For Me” and “Be Real,” which shows him having a good time with his well-dressed crew, sipping Dom Perignon, driving fast cars and getting intimate with scantily clad women.

“I’m very much influenced by women,” Massari admits. “They give me such a positive vibe and energy that makes me work so much harder, especially if people are singing along to my music when I walk into a club, or when I’m performing and there’s people screaming. It’s really a feeling you can’t describe. I feel like I’m living every man’s dream and fantasy.”

It’s no wonder Massari sounds and acts like he’s already the biggest thing in music. He’s in the midst of a Canadian tour. Later he has a few dates that will take him to the United States. In September he tours Germany and releases his third single and video, the down-tempo ballad “Real Love.” Until someone turns off the lights and tells him that the party is over, expect to see a smile painted on Massari’s face.

“Considering the fact that I released this album May 31, the response is incredible,” he says. “The records—you can’t even keep them in the stores. They’re selling like hotcakes and I’m getting such a positive response from my fans. I love it so much. Honestly, I feel like the luckiest man in the world.”

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