miércoles, 3 de diciembre de 2014

"Soutak" is #1 album in World Music Charts of the years 2014!

I am deeply honored that my album 'Soutak' is #1 in World Music Charts of the year 2014! Thanks to all of you, my dear friends! Together we can make this world a better place.

Yours, Aziza


martes, 7 de octubre de 2014

Sahara Soul review – the true spirit of the desert

Barbican, London
Some of West Africa’s top musical talent throw an easy-going desert party, while headliner Aziza Brahim paid moving tribute to the region’s troubles

                 Cool, stately and soulful … Aziza Brahim. Photograph: Philip Ryalls/Redferns

 This concert – a celebration of west African music – is a good reminder of the troubled Sahara region’s diverse and inspiring talent. Last year’s inaugural event concentrated on Mali, but this intriguing event was broader in scope and attracted an impressive crowd, even though few of the musicians are known to British audiences.
Born in in the desolate Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria and now based in Barcelona, headliner Aziza Brahim uses her songs to bring attention to one of Africa’s forgotten tragedies. Playing hand drums and backed by a band dominated by Spanish acoustic guitarists, who brought a flamenco and jazz edge to her Sahrawi rhythms, she gave a cool, stately and soulful set that began with Gdeim Izik, an angry protest about disputed Western Sahara.
From further south, in Mauritania, there was an impressive appearance from Noura Mint Seymali. She comes from a celebrated griot family, and played the ardine harp, typically reserved by female musicians. She has shaken up traditional styles with help from her husband, Jeiche Ould Chighaly, who accompanied her with furious and bluesy improvised electric guitar. There was another rousing British debut from Nabil Baly Othmani, a Tuareg from southern Algeria who plays the oud, and whose laid-back songs often rose to a furious crescendo.
The concert opened with an historic Tuareg supergroup, as the Malian Tartit band were joined by Othmani and members of Tamikrest, Terakaft and Tinariwen. The result was like an easy-going party in the desert, with female drummers and singers joined by slinky instrumental work from the male guitarists, and the session ending with some furious dancing. This was the true spirit of the Sahara, so it was unfortunate that the show ran long, meaning they didn’t return for the expected grand finale.

 The Guardian, Monday 29 September 2014 15.25 BST

Aziza Brahim in session for World on 3

viernes, 19 de septiembre de 2014

The Voice Of A Nation (BBC Africa Beats)

Africa Beats seeks out the most innovative and interesting up and coming musicians from the continent, and Aziza Brahim was chosen because of her beautiful fusing of traditional Saharawi vocal style.

Aziza Brahim uses her compelling voice to draw the world's attention to the ongoing plight of her people. Her fourth album Soutak (your voice) was released earlier this year to high acclaim.

Check out our website:http://www.bbcafrica.com

domingo, 1 de junio de 2014

domingo, 18 de mayo de 2014

Aziza Brahim en Vrije Geluiden VPRO

Entrevista y actuación en el programa Vrije Geluiden de la televisión pública holandesa VPRO

 Aziza Brahim is de stem van de Westelijke Sahara, een land dat door Marokko is geannexeerd. In haar muziek zingt ze over hoop en vrijheid. Met haar album 'Soutak', op nummer 1 in de World Music Charts Europe, breekt ze nu ook internationaal door.

jueves, 1 de mayo de 2014

Number One at WMCE

Soutak  is number one in the WMCE for the third month in a row! Thank you very much!
¡Soutak es número uno de la WMCE por tercer mes consecutivo! Muchas gracias!

martes, 1 de abril de 2014

Number One at WMCE

"Soutak", mi último álbum, continúa en el número uno de 'World Music Charts Europe', por segundo mes consecutivo. Gracias al sello Glitterbeat y a todos vosotros por vuestro apoyo.


martes, 18 de marzo de 2014

New Internationalist Magazine reviews Soutak

" Aziza Brahim is a powerful voice not only for the Sahrawi cause but also for her people’s traditional music ... Songs such as ‘Julud’, dedicated to a mother (and motherland), ‘Lagi’ (‘Refugee’) and ‘La Palabra’ (‘The Word’) bring a new range of empathy and softness to this arresting album." ★★★★★


jueves, 13 de marzo de 2014

Bringing the songs of Western Sahara to the world

Aziza Brahim, singer and refugee, is bringing the songs of Western Sahara to the world

“My strongest influence will always be the haul: the traditional sound of the Western Sahara,” says Aziza Brahim. But while the singer is keen to draw attention to the themes of personal and collective identity that run throughout her work, she is equally happy to recognise an even deeper connection between all her inspirations.

“I listen to lots of different styles of music from lots of different places: Africa, Europe, the United States and the Arab world, because I’m interested in roots.” This simple statement makes a lot of sense, especially when one pauses to consider Brahim’s own story. She was born in 1976 in a refugee camp in Algeria that her mother fled to during the early days of the continuing Moroccan occupation of the Western Sahara. She never met her father, who died during the Western Sahara war, and it was in those camps that she first displayed a talent for music.
In 1995, Brahim won a song contest that drew artists from all over the partially recognised state of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, then joined the National Sahrawi Music Group. Since then, she has struck out on her own and recorded four increasingly acclaimed solo albums. The most recent, Soutak – out now on the German Glitterbeat label – shows her voice at its powerful, emotive best and is bringing her work to a growing audience.
“I’ve always focused my lyrics on the history and struggle of my people,” Brahim says. “Music is very important in the Sahrawi culture. A vital part of our cultural legacy is oral, not written. Music is a base for much of our poetry and many of our stories. It can be used as a means of resistance, but also a way of coming together. At every party – weddings, celebrations and religious events – it is always present. It’s something that we need.” While the respective plights of certain other stateless communities are widely reported in the global media, the Sahrawi are rarely discussed. As a public figure from the Western Sahara, this frequently forces Brahim to act as a de facto ambassador for her people. While this is undoubtedly a considerable responsibility for any artist, she appears content with the role and comfortable with the obligations this places on her music.
“It’s an old conversation,” Brahim says. “Making art in the service of a cause … For myself, I am just glad to be in a position where I can make people aware of the situation of the Sahrawi people. My songs talk about those issues because I can’t do anything else. When I express the concerns of my people through my music, I am also expressing my own concerns.
“Personal experience is very important in my work, but I am also part of a wider society. I belong to an occupied country – my people have been exiled and in refugee camps for nearly 40 years, my homeland is filled with landmines and families have been separated. The international community may be able to sit back and watch this happen but I can’t do the same. I want to talk about these things, but it is important to me to not only write and sing about these issues. I also try to include other parts of life that anyone in the world can identify with and relate to.”
Brahim is now based in Barcelona, where she lives with her husband and two young children. Up until 1975, the Western Sahara was under the colonial control of Spain. Many linguistic ties still exist between the territories, but Brahim’s spoken Spanish appears most informed by the childhood years she spent as a scholarship student in Cuba. This experience was relatively common among Sahrawis of her age, but she believes that her time in the republic may have left her with more than an accent.
“While I was there, I wasn’t making music,” she says, “but I was exposed to the heritage of the country. I got to know the work of a lot of people. It was all very new for me then, but now I think some element of my time there will always be present in my songs.”
Where Brahim’s third outing, Mabruk, explored a harder-edged rock-influenced sound, Soutak offers folk music distilled to its purest essence. Slightly smoother than the traditional Sahrawi songs of artists such as Mariem Hassan, the album’s pared-down rhythms and acoustic instrumentation place emphasis on Brahim’s richly textured vocals. “I felt that I needed to make a simpler sound,” Brahim says. “I wanted to focus on the new songs and their lyrics, and to use the tabal – the traditional Sahrawi percussion instrument – prominently.”
If it can be compared to anything, Brahim’s recent work most strongly echoes the raw passion of blues and flamenco. In fact, it is no surprise to learn that many such artists have figured heavily on her personal playlist. “My country is very connected to Spanish history and culture; that’s why I use Spanish in some of my songs [in addition to Hassaniya Arabic]. I listen to lots of traditional Spanish music. From Africa, I love artists like Ali Farka Touré, Momo Wandel Soumah, Salif Keita and Miriam Makeba. I can also feel a strong connection between my own work and that of Dimi Mint Abba – she’s an emblematic female singer in haul culture. But lately I’ve spent a lot of time listening to American music, too: Big Mama Thornton, Koko Taylor, Billie Holiday, Jimi Hendrix …”
Of course, the idea of desert blues is not new. Malian Tuareg bands such as Tinariwen, whose sixth album Emaar was released last month, and Tamikrest, with whom Brahim shares a record label, have done much to popularise the form in recent years. While Brahim’s approach is somewhat different, relying on the poignancy of the human voice rather than sandstorms of electric guitars, she does recognise a good deal of common ground.
“I celebrate the success of these artists,” she says. “They are musicians who I listen to and like a great deal. They deserve what they have achieved and they have a fascinating musical culture. The growing acceptance of African music around the world is a very positive thing for all of us. Of course, I feel a relationship with other African artists because we are all from the same continent, but in many ways we are all very different. In the case of those bands, though, the Tuareg culture is very similar to the Sahrawi culture. In my country a lot of people like their music, and there is definitely a connection there for me too.”
When I met Brahim in Barcelona with her family, just before Soutak entered the European World Music Chart at No 1, she was clearly happy and fulfilled, both professionally and personally. With a number of international appearances planned for the coming months and the tally of glowing reviews still growing, she has reached a high point in her career. But that good fortune is tempered by the harsher realities that inform so much of her work.
“The camps where I was born are where many of the people who are most important to me still have to live,” she says. “I still keep in contact with ­everyone and visit them whenever I can. It’s a paradox, though. I have this freedom of expression in so many places, yet it is denied to me in my own country. I know that the Sahrawi people enjoy my music, but they have to enjoy it in a clandestine way. I feel very lucky that I get to perform all over the world and to spread the messages that are in my music. I just hope that we, the Sahrawi people, can enjoy our own culture in freedom at some point in the future.”

Dave Stelfox is a photographer and journalist based in London, The National

miércoles, 12 de marzo de 2014

Review of my new album 'Soutak' in The Quietus

 With Soutak, Barcelona-based Saharan songwriter Aziza Brahim follows up two releases with the group Gulili Mankoo. The album title translates as "your voice" and the acoustic arrangements of the tracks showcase a rhythmic blueprint for the desert rock style popularised by the likes of Tinariwen and Tamikrest in recent years. With Tamikrest producer Chris Eckman (of Dirtmusic/The Walkabouts) at the controls, the tracks were recorded live in a Barcelona studio last summer by a six piece group. The songs tell stories of the plight of people from Sawahari refugee camps between Algeria and the Western Sahara where Aziza was raised following Morocco's 1975 invasion of the Western Sahara, and takes inspiration from the music of Mali. Brahim also looks to refugees from other parts of the world to share their stories, and the musical influences on the album also stretch much further. Having experienced firsthand the hardship of living as a refugee, Brahim travelled to Cuba as a young teenager and encountered the problems there during its economic crisis in the 1990s.

The album opens with the defiant 'Gdiem Izik', in which Brahim recounts witnessing the "horror and torture" of the protest "Camp of Dignity" crushed by the Moroccan-backed authorities, and event cited by Noam Chomsky as a catalyst for the Arab Spring. Brahim's powerful words address how "oppression" at the camp was picked up on by the media, as fiercely played guitar riffs fall onto relentless percussion, and wild, trilling vocal ululations appear towards the end of the track. The acoustic arrangement contrasts with the electric mode of Brahim's previous group's releases, but with its strong groove, it is no less powerful.

The album is influenced by a mixture of Malian, Spanish, Cuban and contemporary Anglo-European styles, linked together by traditional Sahawari sounds. It makes for gently uplifting songs, Aziza's powerful voice at the forefront. The group features Spanish and Malian musicians assembled by the singer, and includes her sister Badre Abdallhe on backing vocals. Aziza also plays acoustic rhythm guitar and tabal - a traditional Sawahari hand-drum. 'Lagi (Refugee)' begins with a captivating solo vocal before the hypnotically intricate guitars come in, clean and exquisitely played, but with a looseness to the structure as Brahim rasps the universal story of refugees living in tents "worn-out by time" from Mali and beyond to the Ivory Coast, Sudan and Palestine.

On fifth track, 'Aradana' the music is stripped back to a percussive skeleton as the sisters share vocals in a haunting duet, singing, "The mist returned without him," as they lament the disappearance of a loved one. The arrangement reflects the way Brahim composes her songs, lyrics first, music second, with emphasis on the tabal as the source. And when the guitars return on title track 'Soutak' it is a seamless transition, the song dips into different grooves as the lead guitar lines complement the singing, while adding extra layers of hypnotic melodies as Brahim sings, "I want to hear your voice and the sweet words that have lived within me."

The lively flamenco flavoured 'Manos Enemigas (The Enemy's Hands)', complements the Latin feel throughout the album, in which Brahim asserts "I am not afraid of my enemy, every day I experience the explosion," reflecting on the powerlessness and even the desensitisation in the face of constant conflict. The message throughout the album is one of the struggle faced by the Sawahari people who "cannot live in peace" and is perhaps best summed up on album closer 'Ya Watani (My Land)': "My beloved land, My symbol and sustenance... The dream of my descendants, I reject this injustice." On Soutak Aziza Brahim offers music as the struggle for empowerment. 

Richie Troughton,  The Quietus

miércoles, 5 de marzo de 2014

My new album 'Soutak' was reviewed in wonderful Les Inrockuptibles (F)

Aziza Brahim dans les Inrocks: "Produit par Chris Eckman, l'album décline les harmonies acoustiques de l'impeccable guitariste Kalilou Sangaré, et le caractère hypnotique de ces rythmes ancestraux du blues des sables. La puissance d'évocation de la jeune femme et une dualité assurée entre combat politique et propos intimes renvoient aux modulations désolées de Billie Holiday, et à sa puissance"

  Les Inrockuptibles (F).

domingo, 2 de marzo de 2014


Soutak is Aziza Brahim’s first album for the always-interesting Glitterbeat label and it’s a corker. Brahim is currently based in Spain but was born and raised in the Saharawi refugee camps along the border of Algeria and Western Sahara that arose in the wake of Morocco’s 1975 invasion and occupation (an occupation that continues to this day). Her music is informed by the refugee experience, her husky voice possessed of an elegiac sadness mixed with unshakeable strength. Soutak, which translates as “Your Voice,” indeed gives voice to the experience of the dispossessed, with songs like “Lagi” (“Refugee”), “Ya Watani” (“My Land”) and “Manos Enemigas” (“The Enemy’s Hands”).

It’s stirring stuff, in other words. But wait! This is not a case of something being worthy and important, but ultimately dull. Brahim’s voice is lovely and the arrangements here are spare and precise, but the tunes are strong because they work as songs, not just as propaganda pieces. The fact that there’s real substance to them makes them that much more powerful.

The standout cut here is “La Palabra” (“The Word”), but that’s just because I’m sucker for bluesy arrangements that stretch into five-minute trance sessions. Here Brahim, like Ali Farka Touré and many others before her, bridges the gap between loping West African rhythms and Mississippi Delta blues, with a thrumming bass line, facile guitar picking and the singer’s keening voice floating over everything.

This is by no means the only notable tune. The album kicks off with “Gdeim Izik,” a six-minute statement of purpose that, in many ways, sets the tone for what is to follow. Brahim utilizes a subdued sonic palette on this record, consisting of her voice, some nimble guitar, and a rock-solid bass-and-drums rhythm section, anchored by lively conga and the traditional hand-held tabla drum. “Gdeim Izik” fuses these elements into a lively and propulsive tune, one that uses the bass to motor things along but which leaves enough open spaces for the voice to occupy center stage.

This is her M.O. for the album as a whole. “Espejismos” ploughs much of the same furrow, musically speaking, albeit at a slower speed and a more mournful vocal tone. Looking at the accompanying lyric sheet, this is perfectly appropriate for the material. “Lagi” and “Soutak” both up the tempos, with the latter creating a fair degree of sonic density with its wash of acoustic guitar and echoing percussion. Meanwhile, “Aradana” stands out as something of a minimalist oddity, comprised solely of Brahim chant-singing over hand percussion. At three minutes, it’s the shortest track here and for some listeners it will be their least favorite, but it’s undeniably arresting.

Brahim has self-released a pair of earlier albums, the 2008 EP Mi Canto and Mabruk (2012), neither of which I have heard. This record, though, is outstanding and it shows an artist at the top of her game. Born out of pain and hardship, it doesn’t shy away from tough lyrical themes, but Brahim has shown that beauty can come out of adversity and real art can be the product of oppression. The important word in that last sentence is “art.” This album makes a strong political statement, but don’t listen to it because of that. Listen to it because the songs are beautiful.

David Maine


sábado, 1 de marzo de 2014

Number One at WMCE

My album 'Soutak' is NUMBER ONE at World Music Charts Europe. I am very proud of that album and would like to thank to all of you for the support.

Mi álbum "Soutak" es número uno en la World Music Charts Europe. Estoy muy orgullosa de este disco y quisiera agradeceros a todos vuestro apoyo. 


jueves, 27 de febrero de 2014

African Business magazine: Review of my new album 'Soutak'

"It is an intensely personal recording, yet while the focus of Aziza Brahim’s creativity is bound up with her own identity, she embraces universal values and has an international approach ... there is the space for Brahim’s dignified voice to take centre stage and deliver nine songs that are at once noble, uncompromising and subtly inventive ... This sensational CD deserves the widest possible exposure – as does, it can be argued, the 40-year cause of the Saharawis people."

Get the album here: http://www.glitterbeat.com/glitterbeat_store.html



martes, 25 de febrero de 2014

Empty Mirror (USA): A detailed review of Soutak.

"Aziza Brahim has created a CD of heartrending beauty which speaks to the plight of refugees everywhere without descending into the mire of politics. Instead of pointing fingers or blaming anybody, she has focused on the results of the world ignoring oppressed people everywhere. While this impressive in itself, Soutak is also an example of the simple and elegant way in which musical traditions can be combined and blended to create a sound which doesn’t compromise or insult anyone’s culture. There aren’t many people who speak for the voiceless among us, but here is one record which does so with intelligence and integrity."


 At first glance the Sahara Desert of North West Africa seems like one of the most inhospitable places on the face of the earth. Movies, and other Western media, usually show us images of trackless wastes, endless miles of sand dunes dotted with the occasional oasis and scrubby plants. However, this supposed barren land has been home to various nomadic people for centuries. When the Arab and Ottoman armies started to move into Africa and establish their North African kingdoms, they found the tribesman already firmly established. While there were occasional alliances between the new kingdoms in Algeria and Morocco, the Caliphs and Emirs were wise enough not to attempt to impose their rule on the nomads.

Even the European colonial rulers had the initial good sense to leave well enough alone. It wasn’t until the French and Spanish, the controllers of North Africa, discovered the wealth of natural resources buried beneath the desert they began to interfere. While the Kel Tamashek, (Tuareg) of Mali and Niger have been receiving most of the world’s attention recently because of the attempted takeover of Northern Mali by fundamentalist terror groups with their very narrow definition of Islam, they aren’t the only nomadic people who have seen their land and culture stolen out from under them in the past eighty years. The area now known as Morocco had been once been home to the Sahrawi people. Like their Berber relatives to the south they have been forced out of their traditional territories and into refugee camps and exile in Algeria through the new government’s policies.

While the number of refugees living in the four camps in the northern Algeria is unclear (estimates range from the 40,000 claimed by the Moroccans to the 150,000 claimed by the Polisario Front the Sahrawi governing body) the fact remains they are people without a home whose plight has been ignored by most of the world. Unlike the Kel Tamashek (Tuareg) who have been very successful in exporting their culture, and by extension their circumstances, to the rest of the world through music, the Sahrawi representation on the world stage has been minimal. One voice who has been trying hardest to make herself heard has been Aziza Brahim. While a child of the refugee camps, she now calls Barcelona Spain home, and its there she recorded her new album, Soutak (translated as “Your Voice”), for Glitterbeat Records.
The title is very appropriate as the songs on the disc attempt to give voice to not only the plight of her own people, but people in refugee camps all over the world. While she sings in Spanish, the booklet accompanying the disc comes with both English and Arabic translations of the lyrics, so both the people for whom the songs are meant and people in other parts of the world can understand their meaning. In an introductory statement for the CD she says, “the album contains songs about worries – intimate and collective – that take on universal dimensions”. To that end she made the decision to incorporate both the musical traditions of her own people and those of other cultures in order to create a more inclusive sound.
Right from the opening track, “Gidem Izik” (Camp of Dignity), you can hear the results of this amalgamation. The solo guitar accompanying her has what can only be called a distinctive Spanish feel and sound to it. There’s nothing really overt you can put your finger on, but elements of Flamenco and other styles classically associated with Spanish music come through. Underpinning everything are percussion and electric bass. Anyone who has listened to any of the music of the Kel Tamashek of Northern Mali from the last decade or so will be familiar with the rhythm – the steady, trance inducing beat which drives music forward in an effortless fashion.
While with the Kel Tamashek the rhythm provides the undercurrent for the steady drone of their version of electric blues, Brahim has used it as the foundation upon which she builds her more complex vocal melodies. Although she has something of the same declarative style of singing – she is telling stories after all – her vocals show the influence of other cultures and styles. Whereas most of the music from the nomadic tribes of the Sahara region I’ve heard in the past the lyrics are almost chanted in time with the pulse of the beat, Brahim allows her voice to reflect the emotional content of her lyrics and uses the rhythm as the forge upon which she creates her own sound.

Reading through the English translations of her lyrics it quickly becomes obvious she has been true to her word about creating songs which not only speak of her own people, but also echo the plight of those in similar situations around the world. Track three, “Espejismos” (Mirages) is one of the most moving examples of this. In language that borders on the poetic she describes the effects of war and strife upon the land in a way which not only brings it to life, but evokes the suffering of those who have to continue living there. “Damn the seeds of graves/that beat among the stones of your homeland/that grow/nourished by rage,/sacrificing the worth of the crop/and its fruit.”
However, her songs aren’t just about desolation and horror, they are also about the potential for oppressed people to speak out and be heard. In the CD’s sixth and title track, “Soutak” (Your Voice) Brahim says “I want to hear your voice/and the sweet words/that have lived within me/ever since those days.” Within each person who has lived a life dominated by outside forces resides a voice which hopes for something better. Having been born in a refugee camp, and experienced what it’s like to have her homeland stolen, she’s in a position to say to others your story is my story and our voices are the same. She doesn’t make any assumptions about other’s experiences, but assures them their voices are as important as anyone else’s, including hers.
Aziza Brahim has created a CD of heartrending beauty which speaks to the plight of refugees everywhere without descending into the mire of politics. Instead of pointing fingers or blaming anybody, she has focused on the results of the world ignoring oppressed people everywhere. While this impressive in itself, Soutak is also an example of the simple and elegant way in which musical traditions can be combined and blended to create a sound which doesn’t compromise or insult anyone’s culture. There aren’t many people who speak for the voiceless among us, but here is one record which does so with intelligence and integrity.


 Empty Mirror

Midi libre (FR) review of 'Soutak'

"The voice emotion of Aziza Brahim is powerful, racy, poignant and exalted. She moves the heart with her rebellious poetry." 


domingo, 23 de febrero de 2014

Soutak in RockeRilla (IT)

Se cercate un disco da affiancare all’ultimo, fresco di stampa, dei Tinariwen… beh, lo avete trovato. Le voce di Aziza ha dell’incredibile: copre idealmente una fascia sonora che parte dal deserto del Sahara e lambisce nientemeno che la Spagna mozarabica. Fra i due estremi di quest’arco, c’è tutta la poesia delle canzoni che ascolterete: un intrecciarsi continuo di sonorità nordafricane (in special modo algerine e marocchine) marchia a fuoco le struggenti interpretazioni di questa ex profuga-bambina. A volte, poi, si incappa in veri e propri blues del deserto: tipo in Espejismos (cantata in spagnolo), che ruba ai maestri delle dodici battute l’intensa semplicità di un racconto intimo e dolente. Amore, morte, abbandono, sofferenza: è tutto quello che troverete in questo disco, sublimato da uno straordinario lirismo, degno dell’interprete più navigata ma anche più profonda. Il mio consiglio è questo: provate a fare un viaggio in queste acque, perché sebbene all’apparenza turbolente e insidiose, sapranno regalarvi emozioni che non dimenticherete così facilmente. Almeno, così è successo a me. Questo disco ha la capacità di ridurre all’osso l’ossessività ritmica tipica delle musiche nordafricane, senza per questo perdere in mordente: anzi, accentuando ancor di più il lirismo. Un disco per molti, ma non per tutti. Un disco per chi non ha paura dei propri fantasmi.
Massimo Padalino


jueves, 20 de febrero de 2014

Blogfoolk: review of Aziza Brahim's new album 'Soutak'.

"The music is not only an artistic expression, but also a megaphone for the cause, narrating the drama of the people discriminated and without the state ... The voice of the people that we must listen to!"

Chissà se tra le giovani sahraoui incontrate a metà degli anni ’90 durante un mio viaggio a Cuba, sulla spiaggia di Bibijagua dalla meravigliosa arena negra, nell’Isla de la Juventud, c’era anche Aziza Brahim. Sicuramente l’artista nata in un campo profughi in Algeria nel 1976 nei pressi di Tindouf (un anno dopo l’occupazione marocchina dei territori dell’ex possedimento spagnolo), all’epoca studentessa nell’isola caraibica, con le sue connazionali condivideva fierezza e dignità, senso di appartenenza ad un popolo in lotta, consapevolezza visionaria di studiare nell’isola internazionalista non per ambizione personale ma per il futuro del Western Sahara, ancora oggi reclamante un’indipendenza che è negata, nonostante le risoluzioni dell’ONU. Dal 2000 Aziza vive a Barcellona, mentre la sua famiglia è ancora in un campo di rifugiati nel deserto algerino. La musica, che ha vissuto intensamente sin da piccola nelle riunioni familiari, oggi è diventata espressione artistica ma anche megafono per la rivendicazione, che è al contempo politica e identitaria, per narrare il dramma di un popolo discriminato e senza stato. Negli anni in terra spagnola Aziza partecipa a diversi progetti, tra i quali quello con la band basca di txalaparta Nomadak TX, è attrice e compositrice nel film “Wilaya” (2011), incide l’ EP “Mi Canto” (2008) e l’album “Mabruk” (2012, Reaktion) con il suo gruppo Gulili Mankoo.

 Chi già conosce la voce autorevole di Mariam Hassan, apprezzerà anche questa cantante e autrice che con “Soutak” (significa “La tua voce”) si erge ad interprete dei sentimenti del suo popolo, ma con una musicalità che lascia da parte il profilo rock dell’album precedente, imprimendo al lavoro un suono acustico a misura della sua voce robusta, che è il cuore del disco. Con un quartetto di musicisti composto dall’ispano-argentino Nico Roca (percussioni), il catalano Guillem Aguilar (basso), il maliano Kalilou Sangare (chitarra acustica), sua sorella Badra Abdallahe (cori), Aziza (voce, chitarra ritmica e tabal), sotto l’egida del Dirtmusic Chris Eckman (già produttore dei Tamikrest) ha registrato le nove tracce del suo nuovo CD in presa diretta nella città catalana. “Soutak” si apre ad influenze maliane, spagnole e latinoamericane; la poetica dell’artista riflette la malinconia e la frustrazione ma anche la resilienza, le aspirazioni e i sogni di un popolo dimenticato dai grandi della Terra. Musicalmente, il disco mette insieme le esperienze artistiche della Brahim, con le influenze della sua vita artistica, i modelli canori, come le grandi vocalist mauritane Dimi Mint Abba (scomparsa nel 2011) e Malouma, il chitarrismo di Ali Farka Toure.

Apre il disco la potente “Gdeim Izik”, canto di denuncia per la distruzione del cosiddetto “campo della dignità” nei pressi dell’oasi di Lemseid: una grande mobilitazione di protesta del popolo sahraoui contro la discriminazione in ambito lavorativo e lo sfruttamento delle risorse naturali del Sahara Occidentale repressa dall’esercito e dalla polizia marocchina; “Julad” è una canzone dedicata a sua madre che incarna simbolicamente la resistenza delle donne sahraoui (“Sei l’essenza della mia vita e la sua forza/ Sei l’orgoglio nelle mie parole che travalica le frontiere/ Resisti, immortale, resisti[…] Sei esempio di umanità e lotta”. […]). Chitarre, basso e percussioni accompagnano i tempi lenti di “Espejismos”, cantata in spagnolo. La voce si erge fiera in “Lagi”, un lamento per la vita trascorsa in una haimas, la tenda dei profughi. Il timbro secco del grande tamburo tradizionale tabal, strumento tipicamente femminile, sostiene la voce nella magnifica spirituale “Aradana”. Personale e politico si fondono nelle calde note di “Soutak”, in cui ritorniamo nell’alveo della canzone dalle sobrie coloriture pop, spagnole e nord maliane. Ne “La palabra” gli ipnotici profili melodici chitarristici del deserto si fanno più insistenti, punteggiando il canto, mentre le liriche sono pervase da un senso di nostalgia. Invece, tinte flamenco ammantano “Manos Enemigas”. Canto alla terra e aneliti di libertà in “Ya Watani” (“Guarda questi occhi innocenti che scrutano il cielo desiderando di raggiungere l’orizzonte dell’oceano […] Voglio vivere e danzare con tranquillità” […] ), brano che dà ampio spazio all’ugola di Aziza. La voce di un popolo da ascoltare! 

Ciro De Rosa

miércoles, 19 de febrero de 2014

Read a long interview with Aziza Brahim for the excellent musicOMH

Soutak, the second album by Sahrawi singer Aziza Brahim has been one of the notable success stories of 2014 so far, albeit in a quieter, under-the-radar sense. It may not have generated the publicity of other albums released so far this year, but it is a collection of lasting, impactful songs that have strong personal, social and political undertones.
It is perhaps the latter that form the primary focus of the album, reflecting the issues surrounding Western Sahara, the disputed territory in the north west of Africa. Brahim was born in a Sahrawi refugee camp in Algeria in the late 1970s, and directly experienced the social upheaval and personal tragedy caused by the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara (due to the ongoing conflict, she was never able to meet her father).
Soutak also showcases Brahim’s sensuous and captivating vocals, suggesting that we may soon have another name to add to the list of African musicians to have made successful inroads into Western musical circles. Yet, she doesn’t deserve to be uniformly grouped with other African artists – her music retains a sense of individuality and self-confidence, arguably born out of her time spent travelling and living in other parts of the world. When younger she studied in Cuba, and she currently lives in Spain.
We caught up with her to talk about her latest album, her approach to making music, her background and contemporary Africa, amongst other subjects.

Can you tell us about the background to Soutak? How did the album come together? Had you worked on the songs for some time?

I had some ideas about the new songs I want compose, some issues that were a concern for me. First, I created the lyrics, after that I made the music. I’ve worked nearly of a year on these songs. After Mabruk, I wanted to establish the tabal as a rich source for the desert blues. I wanted to situate this instrument on the centre of the compositions and I need to express my new tunes with an acoustic set.

Lyrically, the album is inspired by the political and social issues relating to your home country of Western Sahara. How do you find the process of incorporating these into your music?

I have to incorporate these political and social issues in the songs. I can’t look to the side and sing about a disassociated reality. I think the artists have a responsibility. It’s very important to me that my lyrics talked about my surroundings. As the conflict has extended over time I think it’s necessary to give it its prominence from the current news.

For this album you are joined by a different group of musicians to before. How did the band come together? Where was the album recorded?

When I arrived in Barcelona, I searched for musicians interested in roots of music: folk, jazz, latin and blues. I was lucky to find the musicians that recorded this album because they are very versatile, very competent and very professional. Each one have some musical projects, very good ideas and they’ve contributed to embellish Soutak. We recorded this album in a week in June, at El Tostadero a little (but very busy) studio, very close to the Park Güell. We recorded all the songs like a live session. It was exciting to me because I contributed to the album with the rhythm guitar and in some songs the Saharawi hand drum, the tabal. The producer, Chris Eckman was so patient and so gentle with us. He supervised very quietly each one of the recording sessions.

There seems to be a tangible sense of hope running through Soutak. Is this something you consciously tried to project?

The hope can be a trap, but if you haven’t hope you can’t grow, because you fall into pessimism. Me or my people can’t allow that. I want to project this sense of hope as strategy of resistance.

Your previous album Mabruk came with a text on the Sahrawi people. Do you feel it is important to spread understanding and knowledge of Sahrawi history?

The people that forget their beginnings, lose their identity. We all know our history, we are aware what is our situation, and we know what future we want for our descendents. We want to spread it and involve the world in supporting our people.

Are there any ways in which you feel Soutak differs from Mabruk?

Mainly, they differ in the sound. Mabruk had a rockier, electric sound and Soutak has a bluesy acoustic sound. But, in the lyrics too. Mabruk had covers my grandmother, Ljadra Mint Mabruk, poems…Soutak, has basically lyrics of mine. But, both have the same intention: to contribute, to modernise, to update, the Saharawi’s millenary culture.

What are your main memories of your childhood in Western Sahara?

Mainly, I remember the supporting cohabitation with my large family in the jaimas. I remember the hard food scarcity, the harsh climate conditions and the government’s curfew that sometimes ordered emergency alarms caused by the air attack danger, all the people running to the trenches, the fear, the stress… But, I have good memories, too. I remember the calling to the food distribution and the morning calling to the school, all the children went together. By night all the children of the neighbourhood met around a large can to play drums and sing…

What role did music play in your childhood? Was there a particular moment when you realised you wanted to become a musician?

When I was a child, usually my family got together on Fridays to sing El Medeh, traditional religious songs. The music was very important. In my family each one played a percussion instrument or clapped their hands or sang. After that we wanted to continue singing or making music. As my grandmother is a great poet, she translated to me her love of poetry and music. She ever encouraged me to sing because she praised my voice. She gave me her poems to make tunes for. I feel I have to take care of her legacy and to follow her good example.

Did you have any early musical influences? Are there any particular artists or people that inspire you now?

My earlier musical influences were Dimi Mint Abba, Um Kelzum, the blues of Ali Farka Touré. And now they continue inspiring me but I have more musical influences as Salif Keita, Tiken Jah Fakoly, Miriam Makeba… The American blues like BB King, John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thorton, Jimi Hendrix.

How do you look back on your time in Cuba as a teenager? Do you think you appreciated at the time what an unusual/significant decision it was to study there?

For me, to study in Cuba in those times was a great luck. First of all, because I went with my sister and my aunt, but after, because it was a special opportunity to study, to learn Spanish, to know a different reality.

Did you have much exposure to the music and culture of the country?

I had a moderate exposure to the Cuban music and culture because at the beginning I was so young and I lived in a boarding school with my compatriots. Although with the passing of time I was got a bigger exposure to its reality and its culture in which I ‘ve learnt a lot. Anyway, I think it was a rewarding experience.

African music seems to be in particularly good health at the moment with bands and artists like Tinariwen, Tamikrest, Rokia Traoré and Amadou & Mariam achieving high levels of success and critical acclaim, particularly in Europe. Do you feel part of a wider musical family in any sense? Does the success of these artists provide direct encouragement for you?

Of course, I celebrate this good health of African music. I think all the musicians, especially popular musicians are a wide family, beyond borders, ethnic groups or religions because we all talk an international idiom.

Is there a musical ‘scene’ as such in Western Sahara? Is music something that young people actively get involved in?

Yes, we have good musicians, good singers and great artists that are references to the Saharawi youth that continues actively playing Saharawi music, because the music is a way of escaping and fighting. Unfortunately, we haven’t a Saharawi musical scene as such, because the country is divided. In the occupied territories the musicians are condemned to the “underground” by the censorship. In the refugee camps, there are poor resources. We haven’t a market, a musical system as in Europe because Western Sahara is an exiled country.

Last year Islamic rebel groups in Mali tried to ban and restrict music. How do people in Western Sahara generally view this situation? It must be of great personal concern to you that things like this can happen?

The music is the power of the people for the Saharawis and in any African country. To ban music is an attack on the people’s freedom of expression. This is unacceptable for the Saharawi and the Malians, too, because they became inhibited in the use of their own culture. It would be a great personal concern to me if a thing like this happened.

How did you come to settle in Barcelona? In what ways do you think that city and culture influences your music? Do you still return to Africa often?

I came to Barcelona because it’s a city that I always liked. Here, I can go to a concert of Salif Keita, Tinariwen, Tiken Jah Fakoly or Chicuelo… in this way I think this cityinfluences my music. On the other hand, the Catalan culture have lots of extraordinary artists. I am in continuous touch with my family in camps. I return to Africa when my work allows it.

In 2011 you worked on the film Wilaya, both in terms of acting and producing the soundtrack. Are these roles you would like to further pursue in the future?

Why not? I enjoyed a lot with this work, above all in the shooting. But, my work is with music. In spite of this, I don’t rule out going back to acting, I would like so much to make more film’s soundtracks.
What plans do you have for the rest of 2014?

The main plan is to do a tour to present Soutak.

domingo, 16 de febrero de 2014

UK Vibe review of 'Soutak'

Aziza Brahim is a singer who has cleverly fused her indigenous musical heritage with neighbouring Malian acoustic blues and Spanish flamenco." 4/5

 Saharan music has tended to be promoted internationally via the roots sounds of Tinarawen and the like, but Aziza Brahim is a singer who has cleverly fused her indigenous musical heritage with neighbouring Malian acoustic blues and Spanish flamenco. The result is a cohesive package and a fine debut album on German label Glitterbeat. Although born in the Western Sahara, Brahim was part educated in Cuba thanks to an exchange scheme and since 2000 has been resident in Barcelona. It is this cosmopolitan upbringing that has opened her eyes and ears to other sounds and exploring how they might compliment her own. Early musical experiments took place while Aziza Brahim was part of a band called Gulili Mankoo that released two albums on the French label Reaktion. Brahim has subsequently performed in her own right at the Caceres version of Womad in 2012 and at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London in 2009. What really comes across on this debut solo recording is the beautiful melodic nature of the music that wins you over after repeated listens. Brahim sings in both Spanish and Arabic and the gentle, relaxed pace overall is typified by a song such as ‘La Palabra’ (The Word) which features some lovely acoustic rhythm guitar. Aziza Brahim has clearly soaked up myriad influences and these can be heard in parts of the album as on ‘Julud’ where he voice sounds a little like a female equivalent of Salif Keita, the flamenco-flavoured ‘Manos Enemigas’ where there are clear parallels with Souad Massi and which is a number that changes gear completely in the second half and develops into an uptempo groove of a piece. She repeats the stylistic transition on the more traditional sounding ‘Lagi’ which has echoes of Malian music while on the Arabic language song ‘Andana’ she is accompanied solely by percussion. It has to be said that her phrasing in Spanish is quite exquisite and conjurs up parallels with Nat Cole when recording his Cuban albums. With proper promotion, this new album may just take off in Spain. Inner sleeves lyrics are handily printed in Arabic, English and Spanish with the usual Glitterbeat flair for visual graphics.
Tim Stenhouse


Louderthawar's review of Aziza Brahim's new album 'Soutak'.

"There are few albums that will affect you the way that Soutak does. Original and gorgeous, and a very very talented singer." 9/10


The new album from Aziza Brahim features a mixture of Malian, Spanish and Cuban cultures. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates is enthralled.
It’s certainly an interesting proposition, a singer with Saharan roots who then moved on to Cuba and Spain whilst being refused the chance to follow a degree in music along the way. Not only that but being produced by Glitterbeat founder and original member of The Walkabouts, Chris Eckman, is something rather special given that another of his projects, Dirtmusic, received 10/10 from Louder Than War for last year’s Troubles album.
Aziza Brahim was born amongst Saharawi refugee camps along the line of Algeria and Western Sahara. With obvious political oppression, she moved to Cuba to further her education. Despite the refusal of her music degree she went back to Algeria and then to Barcelona where she founded Gulili Mankoo, a group with roots both in Saharawi and Spain.
Soutak (translated as Your Voice) was recorded live and focuses on her striking voice which is mesmerizing and beautiful and sings lyrics which are both intimate and universal. Despite words of incredible power, the tracks are woven together by her exceptional knowledge of song and sound.
Dedicated to her mother, standout track Julud, describes an undying belief in the Saharawi political struggle – ‘You are an example of humanity and of fight’. One of many tracks on the album with a familiar sound as though you’ve heard them many times before. Julud is haunting in its simplicity and the musicianship is sublime.
The Spanish element is obvious with some lovely acoustic guitars and tracks like Aradana showcase the extraordinary voice perfectly backed only by percussion and multiple voices towards the end. Again, the lyrics are powerful but retain the mystique and beauty throughout – ‘one day a storm came and took him away. Calmness reigned in the circle of tents and beyond

The title track too is stunning. Inventive music and angelic voice carry the tune from start to finish. Articulate guitar work and a lovely melody make this as enthralling as anything you will hear this year. For over two minutes, album closer Ya Watani (My Land) is nothing more than Aziza and her amazing voice. Subtle hypnotic guitars then come into effect to accompany her dulcet tones.
There are few albums that will affect you the way that Soutak does. Original and gorgeous, and a very very talented singer.


viernes, 14 de febrero de 2014

BR - Bayerischer Rundfunk review of Aziza Brahim's new album 'Soutak'.

"The modern sound of the nomadic peoples currently sounds more exciting than ever. And 'Soutak' is the best proof." ★★★★★

We absolutely agree with this BR - BR - Bayerischer Rundfunk review of Aziza Brahim's new album 'Soutak'.


Soutak bedeutet so viel wie „deine Stimme“. Aziza Brahim hat gelernt ihre Stimme zu erheben, denn sie ist eine Stimme der Sahrauis, die seit Jahrzehnten für einen unabhängigen Staat in der Westsahara kämpfen. Geboren wurde Aziza Brahim 1976 in einem Flüchtlingslager.

Vor fünf Jahren veröffentlichte sie ihre erste EP, 2012 erschien dann ihr Debutalbum "Mabruk", eine Mischung aus traditioneller afrikanischer Musik und Blues: Afroblues also, den Aziza mittlerweile zu einem ganz eigenen, eklektischen Sound weiterentwickelt hat. An der Stelle muss man das mal sagen: Es ist ein großes Verdienst manch engagierter europäischer Labelbetreiber, diesen seit einigen Jahren immer populärer werdenden „Wüstenbands“ wie Tamikrest oder Tinariwen oder eben auch einer Aziza Brahim Gehör zu verschaffen. Mit so einer Musik zieht man zwar nicht in die Charts ein, Album-Veröffentlichungen sind jedoch nicht zuletzt das Resultat politischen Engagements: Gut für diese Musiker, aber auch gut für uns. Der moderne Sound der Nomadenvölker klingt momentan spannender denn je und „Soutak“ ist der beste Beweis dafür.

Veronika Schreiegg

BR - Bayerischer Rundfunk

fRoots Magazine review of 'Soutak

"This second album from Spanish based Saharawi (Western Saharan) singer Aziza Brahim more than fulfils the
promise of her debut ... This one puts Ms Brahim in the desert blues premier league." fRoots Magazine

Awesome review of 'Soutak'. Get the album here: 

The Irish Times review of Aziza Brahim's new album 'Soutak'.

"Soutak – a voice for the voiceless – tells of injustice, oppression, loss and resistance, eloquently and poetically expressed. Singers from the region often have a harsh and wild edge to their sound, but Aziza – her style modulated perhaps by her travels and her current residency in Spain – has an easy-paced and internationalised sound that doesn’t scare the horses." ★★★★


Aziza Brahim: Soutak

Download: Gdeim Izik, Aradana, Lagi

The Irish Times

miércoles, 12 de febrero de 2014

The Epoch Times (USA) wondrous review of 'Soutak'.

"Aziza Brahim’s haunting vocals at times recall those of Arabic fusion diva Natacha Atlas, with a mood that captures both desert bleakness and uplifting triumph ... This beautiful acoustic album transcends cultural boundaries." ★★★★

A review of Aziza Brahim's new album 'Soutak' in Swedish Smålandsposten.

"The curious world music fans will discover a lot on that album"

Aziza Brahim: Soutak

Det är så mycket­ världsmusik något bara kan vara, och både den inbitne diggaren och den nyfikne har mycket att upptäcka och uppleva på Soutak.

Aziza Brahim har sina rötter i Västsahara, och hennes musik är i mycket lik den ökenblues som har varit omåttligt populär i väst i ganska många år. Men även om Aziza Brahims musik har samma sugande rytmer och ödsliga melankoli som exempelvis Tinariwen, Bombino och Toumani Diabaté är den också tydligt uppblandad med musik från hennes nya hemland Spanien, och inte helt utan doft från den folkmusik från Kap Verdeöarna. Det är med andra ord så mycket­ världsmusik något bara kan vara, och både den inbitne diggaren och den nyfikne har mycket att upptäcka och uppleva på Soutak.
Magnus Nilsson


martes, 11 de febrero de 2014

London Evening Standard (UK) review of 'Soutak'

"Through her music, she is trying to re-awaken awareness in this seemingly forgotten conflict. Aziza Brahim has a sonorous voice with just a touch of desert grit, accompanied here by an acoustic band of guitars, electric bass, percussion and tabal, the Saharawi hand drum ... Hers is certainly a voice worth hearing." ★★★★

lunes, 10 de febrero de 2014

fip Radio review of 'Soutak'

Aziza Brahim nouvel album "Soutak"       ©Guillem Moreno

la chanteuse sahraouie Aziza Brahim sort l'album soutak

  Après son EP "Mi canto" en 2009, la poète et chanteuse Sahraouie Aziza Brahim Maichan sortait l'album "Mabruk" en 2012 aussitôt en sélection fip. Artiste engagée, elle a épousé avec exaltation la cause sahraouie. Un engagement poétique et politique que l'on retrouve dans son nouvel album "Soutak" sorti sur le label Glitterbeat Records.
La chanteuse Aziza Brahim est née dans les campements de réfugiés proches de Tindouf, en Algérie. En exil depuis toujours cette artiste a commencé ses tournées avec le Groupe National Sahraoui puis avec Leyuad. Après des études à Cuba, elle s'installe en Espagne en 2000 et rejoint Yayabo Latin Jazz. En 2007 elle fonde son propre groupe Gulili Mankoo avec qui elle sort "Mabruk". Pour son troisième disque Aziza Brahim s'est entourée de musiciens maliens et barcelonais pour un son plus épuré, plus acoustique afin de “faire ressortir le chant et souligner ce que disent les textes”. Une musique très influencée par le blues malien mettant en exergue la puissance émotionnelle de son chant magnifique qui oscille entre pureté vocale et toute-puissance de

"Influenced by the Malian blues, Aziza Brahim is highlighting the emotional power of her beautiful singing that oscillates between purity and unlimited power of words and music."

A fantastic fip Radio review of 'Soutak'. Get the album here: http://www.glitterbeat.com/glitterbeat_store.html

Financial Times (UK) review of 'Soutak'.

"Aziza Brahim's journey has taken her from the refugee camps of the western Sahara to Cuba and now to Barcelona. Soutak sets her commanding voice against the fluid, bluesy Spanish-infected guitar work of the Malian Kalilou Sangare and the central pulse of Brahim's own tabal, a Saharan hand-drum. The songs deal with the refugee experience, with artillery fire, and desert sands full of landmines." ★★★★

Review of 'Soutak' from Funkhaus Europa.

"Where Tamikrest, Bombino or Tinariwen approach the blues via the detour of rock music with distorted electric guitars, Aziza Brahim leads her way for blues, not on rock, but on Spanish and Latin American folk music. 'Soutak' is desert blues and the anger is intimate and fragile."

Aziza Brahim: Soutak (Glitterhouse)

Wenn man im Atlas mit dem Finger die Küste von Nordafrika in Richtung Süden verfolgt, dann kommt man ungefähr auf Höhe der Kanarischen Inseln auf ein schraffiertes Gebiet: Das ist die Westsahara. Dort ist Aziza Brahim in einem Flüchtlingscamp aufgewachsen. Mittlerweile wohnt sie in Barcelona, in ihrer Musik ist die Heimat aber immer präsent. "Gdeim Izik" ist der Titel des Openers von Brahims zweitem Album "Soutak". Es ist der Name eines Protestlagers der Sahraui, der Bewohner der Westsahara, nahe der Grenze zu Marokko. 2010 wollten die Sahraui mit diesem Camp für die Unabhängigkeit der Westsahara von Marokko demonstrieren. Das Camp wurde nach kurzer Zeit von marokkanischen Sicherheitstruppen gestürmt, die Anführer wurden vor ein Militärgericht gestellt. "Gdeim Izik" ist Aziza Brahims persönliches Denkmal an diesen Moment, der von der Weltöffentlichkeit unbeachtet, den Beginn des arabischen Frühlings markierte.

Funkhaus Europa.

viernes, 7 de febrero de 2014

Aziza Brahim et l’héritage sahraoui Soutak, nouvel album de la chanteuse du Sahara occidental

Aziza Brahim                                                    © G.Moreno

Issue d’une génération déracinée qui n’a jamais eu l’occasion de fouler la terre de ses ancêtres et vit en exil, la chanteuse sahraouie Aziza Brahim s’est chargée de reprendre en musique le flambeau de la révolte poétique porté par sa grand-mère. A travers Soutak, son troisième disque, elle donne à sa mission un ton plus acoustique.

 “Le temps défile comme les kilomètres sur une autoroute, mais c’est un voyage irréversible. Si les choses ne sont pas réglées bientôt, cela fera quarante ans que nous, le peuple du Sahara Occidental, aurons pris cette route, depuis que notre pays a été envahi, ravagé, volé.” En quelques lignes, en guise d’introduction au livret qui accompagne le CD de son nouvel album Soutak, Aziza Brahim plante le décor. La chanteuse trentenaire a épousé la cause sahraouie avec une détermination qui confère à sa musique une dimension autre qu’artistique.

Le sang de la révolte, mais aussi celui de la poésie, coule dans ses veines par hérédité. Mabruk, son précédent album paru en 2012, rendait hommage à sa grand-mère, Ljadra Mint Mabrouk, que ses compatriotes connaissent pour ses poèmes et son exaltation du sentiment patriotique. L’illustre aïeule a d’ailleurs fait l’objet d’un épisode de la série documentaire Poets in Protest diffusée l’an dernier sur Al-Jazeera, revenant sur la situation dans laquelle se trouve ce territoire dont la superficie équivaut à la moitié de la France, situé entre le Maroc au nord et la Mauritanie au sud, bordé par l’océan Atlantique à l’ouest et partageant ses frontières à l’est avec le Mali et l’Algérie.

Autrefois colonie espagnole, le Sahara occidental est occupé dans sa très grande majorité par le Maroc qui y revendique et exerce sa souveraineté, en dépit de l’opposition armée menée par le Front Polisario avant qu’un accord entre les belligérants soit signé, prévoyant un référendum d’autodétermination dont l’organisation a toujours été repoussée par le royaume chérifien.

 La musique pour s’amuser
Aziza est née en Algérie, près de Tindouf, où elle grandit avec ses neuf frères et sœurs. “Je pensais que cet endroit était mon pays. Je ne savais pas que c’était un camp de réfugiés. L’innocence d’un enfant s’avère parfois appropriée pour résister, se protéger dans les contextes les plus durs. Comme on n’avait pas de jouets, on faisait de la musique pour s’amuser. Le jeu consistait à faire des chansons avec les poèmes de ma grand-mère. Ma mère et elle ou d’autres femmes du voisinage formaient le jury. Je faisais tout mon possible pour gagner”, confie-telle, rappelant au passage avoir vécu ses premières expériences musicales lors de ces vendredis où les familles musulmanes se rassemblaient pour prier et chanter les louanges au Prophète.

Si elle commence à faire entendre sa voix dans les récitals avec sa grand-mère, c’est à Cuba – où elle est envoyée à onze ans pour suivre ses études secondaires – qu’a lieu sa première prestation en solo. Devant ses camarades d’école sahraouis, elle interprète une chanson du Libanais Walid Toufic. “J’ai écouté Ali Farka Touré, mais aussi Warda, Oum Khalsoum, Salif Keita. Je me souviens du raï : Cheb Khaled, Cheikkha Rimitti, Cheb Mami… Du reggae, avec Bob Marley et Alpha Blondy et des cassettes arabes que mon oncle rapportait d’Alger. Et aussi de Dimi Mint Abba, la référence du haul (la musique traditionnelle, NDLR), avec Malouma”, liste la jeune femme qui joue des percussions, comme sa mère et ses sœurs.

De La Tierra derrama lagrimas à Soutak

Forte de toutes ces influences, elle se met à composer ses propres titres lorsqu’elle retourne au milieu des années 1990 sur le sol africain, huit ans après l’avoir laissé. Son style ne tarde pas à attirer l’attention, à l’échelle locale. Avec La Tierra derrama lagrimas, devenu un morceau phare de son répertoire, elle remporte le premier prix du concours organisé dans le cadre du festival culturel de la République arabe sahraouie démocratique, État fantôme créé par les indépendantistes.
Tout en étant enrôlée au sein de l’ensemble national sahraoui avec lequel elle part en tournée dans les pays voisins, elle fait ses premiers enregistrements, qui atterrissent sur des compilations remarquées, et monte un groupe baptisé Leyuad pour l’accompagner sur les scènes de France, d’Allemagne et d’Espagne, son nouveau pays de résidence. L’équipe changera en 2006 pour devenir Gulili Mankoo, formation afro-latino. Le son d’Aziza se fait résolument moderne.

Cette fois, pour Soutak, son nouveau disque conçu à Barcelone et emballé par le producteur américain Chris Eckman (Samba Touré, Tamikrest…), elle a eu envie de revenir à un mode plus traditionnel, acoustique afin de “faire ressortir le chant et souligner ce que disent les textes”. Avec en filigrane un second objectif : voyager, en partant de sa culture pour aller vers celle du Mali, “le plus naturellement, sans problème, parce que ce sont des cultures proches”.

 Par Bertrand Lavaine