sun 21/07/2024

CD: Aziza Brahim - Sahari | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Aziza Brahim - Sahari

CD: Aziza Brahim - Sahari

A feminine take on desert rock from the Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria

Most poignant album cover of the year

Last month this Western Saharan singer-songwriter stood on stage at London’s Jazz Café and turned the venue into a hallowed holy space with just her voice and the rhythm she summoned from her tabal drum.

Translated from the orginal Arabic, two lines she sung were: "The only one who seeks war, is one who has never known it". These simple yet profound words come from "Cuatro Proverbios", the opening number of this, her third album. However, although Aziza sings a great deal about her poverty, her war-stricken childhood in Algerian refugee camps, and the pain of exile (she currently lives in Barcelona), the music she creates has a fresh, exciting and upbeat feel.

The freshness comes in part from Aziza choosing to work with the Spanish artist and producer Amparo Sanchez (who has also worked with Calexico). Amparo introduced a more studio-based approach. But having said that, the band’s live sound has been left relatively unadorned, with only occasionally touches of electronica and washes of keyboard to enhance what is, on the whole, a mostly stripped-back sound conjured from just guitar, bass, handclaps, tabal hand drum and Western drum kit. Guitarist Ignasi Cusso deserves a special mention for his ability to shift between loping desert blues on "Sahari", subtle dub on "Hadi Jil" and then almost undiluted rock-steady reggae on "Las Huellas".

Some mention should be made of Aziza’s lyrics. While it can be possible to derive pleasure from just hearing an emotionally resonant vocalist singing in a foreign language, it always adds a further dimension if the sleeve notes provide an English translation. In this instance it means we can discover the full range of her concerns. There are songs on freedom, dreaming of a better future, having faith in the younger generation, reclaiming lost land and – most touchingly oi "Masaa Tufulati" – remembering every line of her mother’s hands. So if you’ve ever wondered what a more lyrical, more melody-orientated Tinariwen with a female lead vocalist might sound like, give Aziza a listen. For this is an accessible, enjoyable album of great charm and great seriousness.

An accessible, enjoyable album of great charm and great seriousness


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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