Releases

 

Aziza Brahim • Sahari

Release Date: 15/11/2019
Format: CD/LP+DL/DL
Cat-No: GBCD/LP 083

01. Cuatro proverbios (1:56)
02. Sahari (3:20)
03. Hada jil (3:26)
04. Lmanfa (4:00)
05. Mujayam (3:41)
06. Leil (3:34)
07. Masaa tufulati (3:18)
08. Ard el hub (4:25)
09. Las huellas (3:50)
10. Ahlami (2:33)

 

On the front cover of Aziza Brahim’s new album, Sahari, a young girl poses in ballet shoes and a glistening white tutu. It’s a common childhood scene, but it’s tipped upside down. She’s not privileged and the backdrop isn’t a comfortable suburban home. She’s an exile, living nowhere near her homeland, and behind her stand the tents and buildings of a refugee camp. There’s a desert on the ground and a burning sky above. Yet even in this bleakness, she has optimism. She believes in a better future.

The music Aziza Brahim makes reflects both the sorrow and the hope of these people. She grew up in one of those camps in the Algerian desert, along with thousands of other Saharwai who were removed from their homes in the Western Sahara. The refugee camp was the place that formed her. It lives in her every heartbeat.

Her grandmother was a famous Saharwai poet, her mother well-known as a vocalist, and they passed their strength and fearlessness to her. Now, as one of North African most lauded singers, Brahim uses her position to make the plight of her people known – and of the refugees across the world who have no choice but to exist in the camps. Sahari is for them as much as it’s for her own family.

“My purpose is to denounce the extreme living conditions there and the great injustice that prevents Saharawi refugees from returning to their home,” Brahim says. “I try to capture the feeling of longing that my elders express for the land that was taken away and for their past life in their country. But I know it’s not just us; there are currently 70 million people forcibly displaced in the world. 26 million of them are refugees.”

The political remains intensely personal for Brahim. She lives in exile, in Spain, and the music for Sahari – her third album for Glitterbeat – was written there.  And while her songs remain grounded in her homeland, her gaze is increasingly global. To achieve that, Brahim worked with the acclaimed Spanish artist Amparo Sánchez of the band Amparanoia on the album’s pre-production, and the collaboration has made a transformative impact on the music. The focus is broader, with programming and keyboards a vital part of the new sound.

“Amparo is an artist I’ve always admired,” Brahim observes. “She suggested introducing electronics, and that meant recording in a different way. Before, we’d record everything live. This time we all worked in different studios then put the pieces together. I produced the album, the first time I’ve done that since Mabruk in 2012, and it was a very difficult job, a very interesting challenge: to work in a new way yet make your own songs sound exactly as you want.”

That difference in approach even extends to the very root of Brahim’s music, the tabal drum that’s been the heart of Saharawi music for centuries.

“It’s the main instrument of our tradition,” she agrees. “I wanted a dialogue between traditional and electronic percussion, to have it interacting with the programming. I actually recorded two different tabal to play with the different desert sounds; you can hear that in “Four Proverbs.” For Sahari, I wanted to find that balance between the past and the present, between African and European music and to reach as many people as possible.”

The process was made smoother by having a sympathetic band who’ve been with her for years. All the members played a part in framing the new material.

“Initially I put together the structure of the songs on the demos with the help of my bassist, Guillem Aguilar,” Brahim explains. “After that, I worked out most of the arrangements and the sound of the guitars with Ignasi Cussó. That was the key; for me, guitars and vocals were the main elements. Aleix Tobias listened very thoughtfully before coming up with a number of drum and percussion parts. Finally, Amparo Sánchez supervised the electronic part, all the keyboards and the saxes.”

When Brahim began as a composer, her work reflected her own reality, growing up in the far, rocky desert known as the hamada. These days she’s become a voice for refugees across the globe, and what she sees every day on the news has inevitably affected her writing.

“The normalisation of injustice is something that the Saharawis know well,” she observes. “By addressing that in the songs, I’m trying to fight against the prejudices some people have. We all see tragic news caused by the policies of reactionary governments. Of course that’s influenced the writing of the songs on this new album. How could it not?”

And one of the most powerful pieces on Sahari is a cry for home from someone caught in the flux of exile. “Ard El Hub,” Brahim explains, speaks of “the impossibility of returning to the homeland for us. The lyrics of the song are by Zaim Alal, a great Saharawi poet. I saw him the last time I was in the refugee camps, and he wrote this poem for me to sing.”

My homeland, the land of love / The cradle of my childhood / To you the longings rise / That embrace the sky.

 

Aziza Brahim • Abbar el Hamada

Release Date: 04/03/2016
Format: CD/LP+DL/DL
Cat-No: GBCD/LP 031

01. Buscando la Paz
02. Calles de Dajla
03. El canto de la arena
04. El wad
05. La cordillera negra
06. Abbar el Hamada
07. Baraka
08. Mani
09. Intifada
10. Los muros

Western Saharan musician/activist Aziza Brahim’s new album Abbar el Hamada (Across the Hamada), is a commanding and compassionate musical statement about, and for, the tumultuous age in which we live.

Raised in a Saharawi refugee camp in the Algerian desert, and living in exile for more than two decades (first in Cuba and currently in Barcelona), Brahim’s life and music embodies both the tragedies and hopes of the present-day migrant and refugee experience.

As walls and borders are again being raised though-out Europe and other corners of the world, Aziza Brahim’s passionately sung poetic defiance, is especially timely and profound.

Los Muros (The Walls), a dignified desert dreamscape; is emblematic of Aziza’s artistry. The lyrics morph from condemning the sand fortifications Morocco has erected along the Western Saharan border (to prevent the return of the Saharawi to their homeland), to a recognition that while walls are tragically universal, so is the imaginative spirit that encourages us to transcend them.

Another fleeting star was seen
Crossing the wall tonight,
Undetected by the radar,
Unnoticed by the guard.
On the land and the sea
The walls keep rising still.

Brahim’s previous album, the resplendent Soutak, made great strides towards spreading her message of liberation and resistance. Soutak spent an unprecedented three months atop the World Music Charts Europe, and was the chart’s top album for 2014. The album was also selected as one of Songlines magazine’s “Top Ten” albums of the year and appeared on several other year-end critics lists. An appearance on the legendary BBC television program Later with Jools Holland further cemented her growing reputation. Buoyed by this success, Aziza and her band toured extensively in Europe and beyond.

Soutak not only confirmed Brahim as the most important Saharawi musician of her generation, but it also gave evidence that she had become one of Africa’s most respected young musical voices.

On Soutak the musical nuances of Barcelona, her adopted home, were clearly audible. While these influences certainly have not vanished, on Abbar el Hamada, Aziza has consciously extended her reach deeper into the sounds of contemporary West Africa. This move has been reinforced by the introduction of Senegalese percussionist Sengane Ngomand drummer Aleix Tobias (who has studied drumming in Gambia and Senegal) into her band, and the return of Malian guitarist Kalilou Sangarefrom the Soutak sessions. Bassist/arranger Guillem Aguilarand guitarist Ignasi Cussó,also return from the previous band.

Recorded in Barcelona in the summer of 2015 with Soutak producer Chris Eckman (Bassekou Kouyate, Tamikrest), Abbar el Hamada, is a wholly persuasive example of Brahim’s pan-musical vision and is her most compelling and varied album to date. “It is meant to be a diverse, powerful album,” she says, “where Saharawi traditional rhythms (such as Asarbat and Sharaa) are mixed with drums and rhythms from West Africa (particularly Senegal) and of course Mediterranean sounds and rhythms also.

From the pulsing desert rock of Calles De Dajla, to the Afro-Cuban inflections of La Cordillera Negra (evoking 70’s recordings by the Super Rail Band) through the dusky elegance of El Canto Del La Arena and the raw balladry of Mani (featuring Malian blues-master Samba Toure on guitar), the music and lyrics on Abbar el Hamada masterfully reflect the restless, imaginative search for home, explicit in the album’s title.

Hamada is the word used by the Saharawi people to describe the rocky desert landscape along the Algerian/Western Saharan frontier where tens of thousands of their people are stranded in purgatorial refugee camps. “For me, Abbar el Hamada (Across the Hamada) is a title that synthesizes our destiny as a country over the last 40 years”, Aziza explains. “We are suffering an injustice that condemns us to try and survive in an environment as inhospitable as the Hamada.”

When recently asked how she would best describe her musical mission and methods, Aziza’s reply was like her music; revealing and beautifully stated: “I’m not able to separate politics, cultural and personal concerns. So, the focus of my music is all of these areas at the same time. Political, because of its commitment to the denunciation of social injustice. Cultural, because it searches for new musical ideas. Personal, because it expresses the worries of a person that aspires to live with dignity in a better world.”

Innovation, naked truth, humility and political outcry: these are the raw materials of Aziza Brahim’s ever expanding musical vision. On her new album, Abbar el Hamada she fuses and fashions these elements into an unforgettable work that is both deeply inspired and deeply inspiring.

 

                                              Abbar el Hamada (Across the Hamada):

A look around me after forty years of occupation, of exile, of diaspora. A conversation. A discussion between emigrants, refugees and stationaries; between patriots, expatriates and the stateless; between placed, postponed and displaced; between nomads and the sedentary; between Saharan, sub-Saharan, north Saharan and Saharawis. A conversation between countries, between cultures, between generations, between tribes, between beliefs, between people. People with no other resources than the word, their voices and the skin of their hands and drums. With no other intention than to change the situation by means of music, by means of the imagination, even if it is barely for a moment. Through the fences, the barriers, the camps, the iron bars, the walls, the barbed wire, the seas, the mountain ranges, the rivers, the borders. Across the Hamada.

—Aziza Brahim

 

Aziza Brahim • Soutak

Release Date: 07/02/2014
Format: CD/LP+CD/DL
Cat-No: GBCD/LP 008

01 Gdeim Izik
02 Julud
03 Espejismos
04 Lagi
05 Aradana
06 Soutak
07 La Palabra
08 Manos Enemigas
09 Ya Watani

 

Voiced with deep passion and grace, Aziza Brahim’s music adeptly travels the expanse between her Western Saharan roots and Barcelona, the European cosmopolis where she now lives. Aziza is both a contemporary sonic poet and a prominent and eloquent spokesperson for the Saharawi people and their ongoing struggle for recognition and justice.

Born and raised in the Saharawi refugee camps lining the frontier between Algeria and Western Sahara, Aziza’s life has been marked by both daunting hardship and inspired will. Fleeing from these camps and the regime of political oppression that followed Morocco’s 1975 invasion of Western Sahara, as a young teenager Aziza travelled to Cuba for her secondary school studies. There she experienced first hand the deep Cuban economic crisis of the 1990’s 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. There she 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 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 and direct 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 hand picked band she assembled for the album consists of Spaniards Nico Roca (percussion) & 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 motifs 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.

 

Though the songs on Soutak can be unsparing in their details of oppression, there is more often than not a “smiling breeze” to be found. Aziza’s essential voice, headstrong commitment and subtly inventive music are that breeze.

With Soutak Aziza Brahim has delivered an empowered flight to freedom; an alternative world where hope is imminent and dancing is justified.

 

Aziza Brahim

 

On the front cover of Aziza Brahim’s new album, Sahari, a young girl poses in ballet shoes and a glistening white tutu. It’s a common childhood scene, but it’s tipped upside down. She’s not privileged and the backdrop isn’t a comfortable suburban home. She’s an exile, living nowhere near her homeland, and behind her stand the tents and buildings of a refugee camp. There’s a desert on the ground and a burning sky above. Yet even in this bleakness, she has optimism. She believes in a better future.

The music Aziza Brahim makes reflects both the sorrow and the hope of these people. She grew up in one of those camps in the Algerian desert, along with thousands of other Saharwai who were removed from their homes in the Western Sahara. The refugee camp was the place that formed her. It lives in her every heartbeat.

Her grandmother was a famous Saharwai poet, her mother well-known as a vocalist, and they passed their strength and fearlessness to her. Now, as one of North African most lauded singers, Brahim uses her position to make the plight of her people known – and of the refugees across the world who have no choice but to exist in the camps. Sahari is for them as much as it’s for her own family.

“My purpose is to denounce the extreme living conditions there and the great injustice that prevents Saharawi refugees from returning to their home,” Brahim says. “I try to capture the feeling of longing that my elders express for the land that was taken away and for their past life in their country. But I know it’s not just us; there are currently 70 million people forcibly displaced in the world. 26 million of them are refugees.”

The political remains intensely personal for Brahim. She lives in exile, in Spain, and the music for Sahari – her third album for Glitterbeat – was written there.  And while her songs remain grounded in her homeland, her gaze is increasingly global. To achieve that, Brahim worked with the acclaimed Spanish artist Amparo Sánchez of the band Amparanoia on the album’s pre-production, and the collaboration has made a transformative impact on the music. The focus is broader, with programming and keyboards a vital part of the new sound.

“Amparo is an artist I’ve always admired,” Brahim observes. “She suggested introducing electronics, and that meant recording in a different way. Before, we’d record everything live. This time we all worked in different studios then put the pieces together. I produced the album, the first time I’ve done that since Mabruk in 2012, and it was a very difficult job, a very interesting challenge: to work in a new way yet make your own songs sound exactly as you want.”

That difference in approach even extends to the very root of Brahim’s music, the tabal drum that’s been the heart of Saharawi music for centuries.

“It’s the main instrument of our tradition,” she agrees. “I wanted a dialogue between traditional and electronic percussion, to have it interacting with the programming. I actually recorded two different tabal to play with the different desert sounds; you can hear that in “Four Proverbs.” For Sahari, I wanted to find that balance between the past and the present, between African and European music and to reach as many people as possible.”

The process was made smoother by having a sympathetic band who’ve been with her for years. All the members played a part in framing the new material.

“Initially I put together the structure of the songs on the demos with the help of my bassist, Guillem Aguilar,” Brahim explains. “After that, I worked out most of the arrangements and the sound of the guitars with Ignasi Cussó. That was the key; for me, guitars and vocals were the main elements. Aleix Tobias listened very thoughtfully before coming up with a number of drum and percussion parts. Finally, Amparo Sánchez supervised the electronic part, all the keyboards and the saxes.”

When Brahim began as a composer, her work reflected her own reality, growing up in the far, rocky desert known as the hamada. These days she’s become a voice for refugees across the globe, and what she sees every day on the news has inevitably affected her writing.

“The normalisation of injustice is something that the Saharawis know well,” she observes. “By addressing that in the songs, I’m trying to fight against the prejudices some people have. We all see tragic news caused by the policies of reactionary governments. Of course that’s influenced the writing of the songs on this new album. How could it not?”

And one of the most powerful pieces on Sahari is a cry for home from someone caught in the flux of exile. “Ard El Hub,” Brahim explains, speaks of “the impossibility of returning to the homeland for us. The lyrics of the song are by Zaim Alal, a great Saharawi poet. I saw him the last time I was in the refugee camps, and he wrote this poem for me to sing.”

My homeland, the land of love / The cradle of my childhood / To you the longings rise / That embrace the sky.