Saharawi singer, Aziza Brahim is a representative of her people’s plight, delivering her powerful message of their struggle through her music; her life as a refugee in Algeria and the identity left behind in Western Sahara is the source of her art. Born in exile in 1975, when her pregnant mother was forced to flee to Tindouf in Southwest Algeria when war broke out following Spain’s abandonment of its colonial protectorate of Western Sahara. Her father stayed behind to fight against the occupying forces of Morocco and she never had a chance to meet him. In this harsh corner of the Saharan desert, a young Aziza first displayed her talent for music by creating rhythms through clapping and a makeshift tbal, a traditional Saharawi drum. The beats from Aziza’s tbal are now heard at her live performances providing the base for her unique style of music.
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Gaining a scholarship to study in Cuba at the age of eleven, provided the opportunity to leave the refugee camp and blossom as an artist. Since then, her journey led her to develop a successful music career and she is today one of the best-known Saharawi voices. Aziza Brahim recently performed at the London African Music Festival 2016 in the Union Chapel in Islington. The Victorian gothic architecture of the Chapel made a contrasting stage for Aziza and her band’s expression of traditional Saharawi vocals infused with Senegalese percussion and melodies from Spanish, bass and electric guitar. The performance flowed through the different musical styles gathered from Aziza’s experiences including desert blues, rock, afro cuban and latin sounds.
Aziza sang stories to her audience from her latest album “across the Hamada”, bringing to life her people’s journey, extolling their cause for peace and freedom. The desert rock of “Calles de Dajla” compels you to imagine an alternative to reality where Sarahawis can celebrate their independence and return to the beautiful beaches of Dajla – a jewel of Western Sahara; while “La cordillera negra”, which translates to “The Black Mountain” tells the tale of a migratory route used by many refugees who walk through the desert to arrive at a fenced European border in Morocco where they wait for many days in poor living conditions. In this way, Aziza Brahim brings to light the struggles faced, not only by Saharawis but also for refugees from all over the world. She draws out an evocative response from her listeners who one hopes will, in turn globally advocate for change.