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ARTIST
TITLE
Soutak
FORMAT
CD

LABEL
CATALOG #
GB 009CD GB 009CD
GENRE
RELEASE DATE
2/18/2014

Voiced with 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 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. 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. In recent years Aziza has performed extensively, appearing at major festivals and venues including WOMAD Cáceres (2012) and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London (2009). Aziza's album Soutak (trans. "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) 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 motifs all held together by Aziza's deeply rooted knowledge of traditional Saharawi song and sound. Though the songs on Soutak can be unsparing in their details of oppression, Aziza Brahim has delivered an empowered flight to freedom; an alternative world where hope is imminent and dancing is justified.