(Glitterbeat) UK release date: 10 February 2014
It also offers swift proof that while Mabruk, her 2011 album, established the core components of her music, Soutak refines and consolidates them, resulting in a stronger album overall. Second track Julud furthers the political dimension of the album but, as shown by its dedication to Brahim’s mother, has a more personal feel to it.
Tracks like Espejismos and Aradana may be slower but in their own way are equally alluring (the latter sees Brahim impart her vocals over nothing but bare percussion). It is followed by the sunshine-infused Soutak, made to sound even warmer here by being placed straight after the stripped-back spiritualism of Aradana. Importantly, the title track is one of several songs on the album that as well as their personal or political message also boast memorable tunes. This short sequence of tracks demonstrates how the album maintains a sensuous, consistent flow, despite the subtle differences in pace and mood.
The flamenco-tinged Manos Enemigas best reflects the Spanish influence gained from her current place of residence, although a sense of vivacious flair is also present to a lesser degree on the gently lulling Lagi earlier in the album. A tangible sense of longing meanwhile rolls through La Palabra and the album closes on a similar note with Ya Watani, another track built on sparse instrumentation and a simple, focused message. It returns the album full circle and brings Brahim back to her origins (the title translates as ‘the birthplace’ in Swahili).
Soutak is a strong musical statement from an artist approaching what may prove to be the peak of her powers. It reflects the sadness and frustration of a people denied but, delivered with such indefatigable intent and rich beauty, also contains seeds of hope and glimmers of optimism that will never be fully extinguished.