Words by Robin Denselow
Aziza Brahim was born in the refugee camps of Algeria, an exile from her homeland in what the Saharawis call Occupied Western Sahara, the region from which they fled when it was invaded by Morocco in 1975. This is a conflict that the outside world seems to have forgotten and so Brahim, like other Saharawi musicians, is using her music to put that right. She no longer lives in the camps, for she managed to leave to study in Cuba and then to settle in Spain, but the struggle of the Saharawi people dominates this album.
The first track, ‘Gdeim Izik’ is an angry song about the protest camp that was set up in the disputed territory but pulled down by the Moroccans. ‘Manos Enemigas’ is another song of defiance, while ‘Lagi’ is a lament for refugees across Africa and the Middle East. The album is produced by Chris Eckman, famous for his work with Mali’s Tamikrest, and while there are desert blues tracks in this rhythmic acoustic set, there are also echoes of flamenco from Brahim’s Spanish musicians, and songs in which her fine, sturdy voice is backed only by hand percussion. Like her people’s cause, Aziza Brahim deserves recognition.
Track to Try: ‘Gdeim Izik’