Aziza Brahim, one of the leading voices in the Saharawi music scene, will release her new album Soutak on February 10, 2014 on Glitterbeat Records. Aziza is currently based in Spain and her music combines Western Saharan roots with contemporary sounds.
Aziza was born and raised in the Saharawi refugee camps lining the border between Algeria and Western Sahara that were formed after the political oppression that followed Morocco’s 1975 invasion of Western Sahara. As a young teenager Aziza traveled to Cuba for her secondary school studies. There she experienced first hand the deep Cuban economic crisis of the 1990s and the subsequent denial of her request to pursue a university degree in music.
Music had been Aziza’s passion since she was a small girl and despite this setback she returned to the Saharawi camps in Algeria and began singing and playing in different musical ensembles, a process that continued when she moved to Spain in the year 2000. In Spain, Aziza founded the eclectic Saharawi-Spanish band Gulili Mankoo with whom she released two acclaimed self-produced recordings: the EP ‘Mi Canto’ (2008) and an album ‘Mabruk’ (2012), both on Reaktion, a French label specializing in Saharan music. In the last years Aziza has performed extensively appearing at major festivals and venues including WOMAD Cáceres (2012) and the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London (2009).
Aziza’s new album ‘Soutak‘ (“Your Voice”), her debut for the Glitterbeat label, is her first recording to predominantly focus on the cadence of her majestic voice and the soulful critique of her lyrics. The album was produced by Chris Eckman (Tamikrest, Ben Zabo, Dirtmusic) and was recorded live in Barcelona in June of 2013.
In the liner notes to the album Aziza describes her vision for ‘Soutak‘: “Feeling the need to make an acoustic record, I imagined a somewhat modest musical outline, which would not involve too many instruments and in which the voices would take the expressive emotional lead. I wanted to further explore the range of possibilities found in the Haul, the Saharawi’s traditional rhythmic sources, played on the tabal and a source of inspiration for the Desert Blues.”
The band assembled for the album consists of Spaniards Nico Roca (percussion) and Guillem Aguilar (bass), Malian Kalilou Sangare (acoustic lead guitar), Aziza’s sister Badra Abdallahe (backing voice) and in addition to singing, Aziza contributes acoustic rhythm guitar and the tabal, the traditional Saharawi hand-drum.
The music on ‘Soutak’ is a powerful and nuanced mixture of musical cultures and features Malian, Spanish, Cuban and contemporary Anglo-European influences all held together by Aziza’s deeply rooted knowledge of traditional Saharawi song and sound.
Throughout ‘Soutak’, the band frames Aziza’s voice with dignified restraint and leaves unvarnished space for her lyrics, lyrics which range from the sharply political “Gdeim Izik” (named after the “Camp of Dignity” crushed by the Moroccan-backed authorities) to the whispered enigmas of “La Palabra/The Word” (“Cradled by the wind it left/ it went around the world and returned/ and there beyond the word was heard”).
The song “Julud,” dedicated to Aziza’s mother, is possibly the most emblematic song on the album combining intimate and stark desert poetry with an unyielding faith in the Saharawi political struggle:
You are like the night and the stars/ Your voice goes beyond the top of the clouds/ You are the smiling breeze of today/ You are an example of humanity and of fight. Resist, immortal, resist.
Buy Soutak in North America
Buy Soutak in Europe