|Badra Abdallahe y Aziza Brahim (Foto: Guillem Moreno)|
Reaktion Aziza Brahim & Gulili Mankoo : Mabruk (SP/MO,2012)***°
Often in history you see that zones and people are overwhelmed, conquered or occupied by stronger and in a sense more primitive powers. Because in general, today’s society considers economy more important than culture occupation of land and minor cultures always will remain possible. Because of the economic and political dependencies of outsiders who are also partly “occupied” by their own problems to maintain especially economic and political stability, it is even likely that information on some occupations gets trough in media only sporadically. In Africa many colonial borders often did not match the reality of the people living there and how they hang together, and now when economy means power things didn’t evolve easily in the right direction for everyone involved. In Africa we also have racial, tribal and religious domination that play part in the occupied teritories. The Western Sahara (the West of Mauritania) is now occupied and heavily controlled by Morocco even tough this evolution still is an incomplete process, nothing really happens that could possibly improve the situation. Like in the surrounding countries already in the first steps of this process they (deliberately or not)have overlooked the desert tribe people who now are trapped within certain borders and restrictions ruled by countries with different perspectives and interests, and by racial oppression and even aggression. Aziza had already left her homeland just before the domination of occupation to study in Cuba (age 7-11), a study which she abandoned to pursue a career in music. In 1995 she joined the National Sahraoui Group, which made her able to tour in Mauritania and Algeria. After a Spanish label released two of her songs on a trilogy, she migrated to Spain in further exile, where she further developed her own style while opening herself up to multi-cultural musical understanding and creative growth. She never forgot her African and tribal roots and family and tried to maintain in contact.
The booklet mentions the first Sahrawi music group called “Martir Luali” in 1976, who pioneered the introduction of the electric bass guitar, drums, organ, flute, saxophone and trumpet.
Aziza joined different ensembles like Yayabo Latinjazz in 2005. Then she formed a Sagrawi group, Gulili Mankoo. There were also other projects like with the Basque musical group Oreka TX, taking part in the ‘Nomadak TX’ project, mixing Sahrawi roots with rap and folk. But her main interest now is to deliver a voice to the situation her family is trapped for now already three generation while things only seems to get worse.
Therefore she incorporates some Mauritanian & Sahwari traditions. These traditions are more African rooted compared to the Arab associations of the rulers. Therefore they use for instance ‘ezamzam’ a sort of drum pierced by a stick, played by women; the ‘tidinit’, a small guitar; the ‘neifara’, a traditional flute, played by men, and the “tabal” a type of drum shared by men and women. Still we can say the music is pretty rock-like featuring electric guitars and drums alongside the acoustic instruments.
For Aziza’s first CD album (the label released a digital EP before), Aziza referred several times to lyrics of her grandmother, the Sahrawi poet, Ljadra Mint Mabroc (Tiris, 1934). Her village once nicknamed her “the poet with a gun”.
As I said, for a part the music is more like rock music with ethnic associations. The foundations of drums, (conga-like) acoustic percussion, electric bass and guitars are kept simple, almost primitive, -nevertheless effective in its core. It is especially Aziza’s voice which lead everything : a convincing, perhaps powerful voice and expression with attractive melody lines, sometimes a bit sad, sometimes up-tempo or more celebrative with power to be heard. Some guitars add to the rhythm, then repeats the melody line in an African way of response, sometimes with some improvised variation. A few times electric guitar takes the time to express some emotion to, in a rock sense, which is very effective too. Compared to the other nomadic tribe guitar music (Touareg-based), Aziza’s voice still is pretty different, perhaps because she adapted elements from other countries where she lived (Cuba, Spain), musically she might not be able to adapt each traditional aspect of her people, her voice means power to reunite with a renewed hope that she was able to infuse elsewhere. Let us hope this message also comes through.