Aziza Brahim: The voice of the Sahrawis
Nicolas Roux ⋅ June 18, 2012 Reaktion has become an unavoidable label for Saharan music amateurs. With the release of Aziza Brahim’s debut album, Mabruk, Reaktion confirms their talent at digging out new artists.Time has passed since the days where old clichés described the Sahara as a broad area where no existence dwelled. Thanks to the success of the likes of Tinariwen, the region is now seen not only as bustling with activity but culturally rich too.
That’s also what Sedryk, the man behind the name Reaktion, aims at. He, who fell in love with the Sahara about ten years ago, introduced Aziza Brahim’s first EP in 2008. He’s now presenting the Sahrawi artist’s first album, Mabruk – a change from his usual Touareg ties.
The Sahrawis, name usually given to the populations living in the disputed territory of Western Sahara, share a lot in common with their Touareg neighbours. Most notably their society has been subject of great social change since colonization, which has had a significant impact on arts in general, and music in particular.
Thus new generations of musicians have introduced so-called Western elements in their pieces, such as the guitar. However they have transcended these influences to merge them with their own traditions – they have made them theirs.
Aziza Brahim’s Mabruk is a great example. She appropriates blues (“Invasores”), funk (“Sensación del Tanque”), or Spanish sonorities (“Laaiún Ezeina”) while beating Tabal percussions, a typical Sahrawi instrument.
Special merit goes to the fast paced “La Tierra Derrama Lágrimas”, a tribute to the freedom fighters in Western Sahara, which is the central theme of the album. It is difficult indeed to ignore the conflict that has been raging for forty years in the region. Through her music, Aziza acts as a spokeswoman for her people.
That’s another key interest of Reaktion’s releases. Sedryk has strived to promote the music but also to include the context surrounding it. He insists that “music is a strong vehicle because of its universality.” For him, music can help informing people about tough living conditions throughout the world.
Aziza Brahim’s life hasn’t been an easy one. She went through difficult stages, from Cuba to refugee camps, and her music has turned out all the richer for it. On Mabruk, all these experiences can be felt from beginning to end. It’s deep, personal, at times melancholic, at times upbeat. 2012’s highlight so far.
Alongside Aziza Brahim’s album, Reaktion and the German label Glitterhouse have recently released a compilation featuring rare or unreleased tracks of Touareg artists such as Tinariwen or Bombino. All the benefits go to the refugee populations of Northern Mali, victims of the ongoing conflict since January 2012. Click here for more info.