Saharawi Passion

Mariem Hassan – El Aaiún Egdat (El Aaiún on Fire)
Mariem Hassan

El Aaiún Egdat – El Aaiún on Fire (Nubenegra, 2012)

The latest album by Saharawi star Mariem Hassan has been attracting a lot of attention. It has reached the top of the European World Music Charts and it has brought attention once more to the plight of the people of the Western Sahara who are known as the Saharawi (also spelled Sahrawi and Saharaui).

Mariem’s music is rooted in Haul, bringing it to the present time with a the addition of blues, jazz and other contemporary elements. Haul is the traditional music of the Saharawi. It was developed from many different influences, including North African Amazigh (Berber), Middle Eastern Arabic music, Sudanese songs brought by the caravans crossing the Saharan desert from one end to another, and black music brought from sub-Saharan African in the South. Haul is governed by a modal system, consisting of five scales, subdivided in major and minor.

Like many other Saharawi refugees, Mariem is based in Spain and her band features Saharawi and Spanish musicians who are deeply committed to her cause. On the album you’ll find Vadiya Mint El Hanevi on tebals (large bowl drums from the Western Sahara) and backing vocals; Luís Giménez on electric guitar, mbira and harmonica; Hugo Westerdahl on bass; and Gabriel Flores on sax and flutes.

The events of the past months, which the international news media has described as the “Arab Spring” has refueled the resolute Saharawi struggle for independence. Mariem’s new songs are calls for freedom and the title of her album El Aaiún Egdat (El Aaiún on Fire) makes reference to El Aaiún, the largest city in the Western Sahara, which is under Moroccan occupation.

“On her new album, Mariem integrates divergent themes and musical expressions into her traditional rhythms driven by the haul,” says Nubenegra label owner and producer Manuel Dominguez. “Most arresting perhaps are the tracks El Aaiun Egdat, the two songs that refer to the Gdeim Izik camp, the Arab Spring or the Victory, whose verses are written by renowned Saharawi poets in exile: Beibuh, Ali Bachir and Lamin Allal. Mariem’s voice signals the seriousness of the moment with all the passion only her throat and her heart can transmit.

Other tracks, such as Ana Saharauia (I’m Saharawi) – a reaffirmation of her identity – and The Martyrs Rest in Peace – a jazz-tinged vision of the jaima (Saharawi tent) tranquil beneath the warm moonlight in the desert – reveal a sweeter side to the lacerating vocals Mariem has offered us in the past.

Singular are also ‘Melfa,’ about her traditional clothing, and ‘The Legacy’ which offers Mariem´s perspective on the bloodless battles between tradition and modernity with which her culture has always grappled.”

El Aaiún Egdat – El Aaiún on Fire presents the finest living example of the Saharawi Haul.

Listen to samples and buy downloads: El Aaiún Egdat

Buy CD in North America: El Aaiún Egdat – El Aaiún on Fire

buy the Cd in Europe from Amazon UK

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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