Music of Western Sahara

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Aziza Brahim and Gulili Mankoo (band) - WOMEX 15, Budapest Aziza Brahim and Gulili Mankoo (band) - WOMEX 15, Budapest (4).JPG
Aziza Brahim and Gulili Mankoo (band) - WOMEX 15, Budapest

The Western Sahara has an established music tradition. Many of the well-known from the country musicians have settled in Dakar, where they mingled further with musicians from West Africa.

Western Sahara Disputed Territory

Western Sahara is a disputed territory on the northwest coast and in the Maghreb region of North and West Africa, partially controlled by the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and partially occupied by neighboring Morocco. Its surface area amounts to 266,000 square kilometres (103,000 sq mi). It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly consisting of desert flatlands. The population is estimated at just over 500,000, of which nearly 40% live in Laayoune, the largest city in Western Sahara.

Dakar Capital and largest city of Senegal

Dakar is the capital and largest city of Senegal. The city of Dakar proper has a population of 1,030,594, whereas the population of the Dakar metropolitan area is estimated at 2.45 million.


Sahrawi music shares much in common with neighbouring musical traditions such as those of Mauritania and southern Morocco, yet retain aspects of pre-colonial heritage. [1] The Tbal is the basic instrument of percussion, though the traditional string instrument called Tidinit, has largely been replaced by electric guitar.

Sahrawi people People living in the western Sahara desert

The Sahrawi, or Saharawi people, are the people living in the western part of the Sahara desert which includes Western Sahara, southern Morocco, most of Mauritania and the extreme southwest of Algeria.

Mauritania Islamic republic in Northwest Africa

Mauritania, officially the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, is a country in Northwest Africa. It is the eleventh largest sovereign state in Africa and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Western Sahara to the north and northwest, Algeria to the northeast, Mali to the east and southeast, and Senegal to the southwest.

Morocco Country in North Africa

Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is a sovereign state located in the Maghreb region of North Africa. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Morocco claims the areas of Ceuta, Melilla and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, all of them under Spanish jurisdiction. The capital is Rabat and the largest city Casablanca. Morocco spans an area of 710,850 km2 (274,460 sq mi) and has a population of over 35 million.

The first Sahrawi music LP, titled Polisario vencerá, was recorded live in Barcelona, in 1982 by the band Shahid El Uali.

Barcelona City and municipality in Catalonia

Barcelona is a city in Spain. It is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Catalonia, as well as the second most populous municipality of Spain. With a population of 1.6 million within city limits, its urban area extends to numerous neighbouring municipalities within the Province of Barcelona and is home to around 4.8 million people, making it the sixth most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, Madrid, the Ruhr area and Milan. It is one of the largest metropolises on the Mediterranean Sea, located on the coast between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs, and bounded to the west by the Serra de Collserola mountain range, the tallest peak of which is 512 metres high.

Some performers are tribespeople who have lived a nomadic existence, which is true of Mariem Hassan. [2]

Tribe Social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states

In anthropology, a tribe is a human social group. Exact definitions of what constitutes a tribe vary among anthropologists. The concept is often contrasted with other social groups concepts, such as nations, states, and forms of kinship.

Nomad member of a community of people who live in different locations, moving from one place to another

A nomad is a member of a community of people without fixed habitation who regularly move to and from the same areas, including nomadic hunter-gatherers, pastoral nomads, and tinker or trader nomads. As of 1995, there were an estimated 30–40 million nomads in the world.

Mariem Hassan Sahrawi singer

Mariem Hassan was a Sahrawi singer and lyricist from Western Sahara. She usually sang in Hassaniyya, an Arabic dialect spoken mostly in Western Sahara and Mauritania, and occasionally in Spanish. Her use of the Spanish language was related to the former status of Western Sahara as a Spanish colony.

From 1998, Nubenegra (Spanish music label) marketed several Sahrawi music CDs in the United States and Germany, with a first release of a three-disc box set from 1998 titled Sahrauis: The Music of the Western Sahara (catalogue number INT 32552). Featured artists in the compilation were singer Mariem Hassan, Leyoad, guitarist Nayim Alal and singer Aziza Brahim. Meanwhile, American label Rounder Records released their own compilation Starry Nights in Western Sahara in 2000.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

<i>Sahrauis: The Music of the Western Sahara</i> 1999 compilation album by Various artists

Sahrauis: The Music of the Western Sahara is a three-disc box set of Saharawi music, published by the Spanish label Nubenegra. It was the first compilation of such songs released in the United States. The producers of the album travelled to the Sahrawi refugee camps and spent 14 days with the artists to record the CDs 1 & 2 of the compilation, with the aim of recording with the finest musicians and singers the traditional Sahrawi music (Haul) of the past and present.

In 2002 Mariem Hassan and Leyoad released a collaboration album, Mariem Hassan con Leyoad . Then, in 2005 Nubenegra edited Mariem Hassan first solo album, titled Deseos (Wishes). In 2009, the album Shouka (Thorn) was published. Her last work, El Aaiun egdat (El Aaiun on fire) was released in 2012.

<i>Mariem Hassan con Leyoad</i> 2002 studio album by Mariem Hassan and Leyoad

Mariem Hassan con Leyoad is a 2002 collective album by Mariem Hassan and the Sahrawi group Leyoad.

<i>Deseos</i> (Mariem Hassan album) 2005 studio album by Mariem Hassan

Deseos is the 2005 debut solo album of the Sahrawi singer Mariem Hassan. The album was recorded at Axis estudios in Madrid, and produced by guitarist Baba Salama, who died of leukemia one week before the release of the album. With the use of two electric guitars and two tbals, the album had been hailed as a fresh actualization of the traditional Sahrawi Haul traditional music. The song "La Tumchu anni" is one of the highlights, a pintoresque desert blues. It also contains one of Mariem's most known songs, "La Intifada", about the 2005 Sahrawi Independence Intifada. "El Chouhada" is dedicated to her three dead brothers, who were killed fighting during the Western Sahara War, while in "Mutamaniyat" she asks God for the healing of her breast cancer.

<i>Shouka</i> 2010 studio album by Mariem Hassan

Shouka is the second album of Sahrawi singer Mariem Hassan. It was recorded again at Axis studios, in Madrid, and produced by Manuel Domínguez, who is also the boss of the label Nubenegra. The album reached Number 1 on the World Music Charts Europe (WMCE) on March 2010. "Shouka", the central song that titles the album, is a new experience in the Sahrawi music, as it is structured as a cantata. Taking the verses of Sahrawi poet Lamine Allal, Hassan developed a nine paragraph critical response to the 1976 speech of then Spanish opposition leader and later president of Spain Felipe González at the Sahrawi refugee camps, by using all scales and rhythms of the Haul. In this work, Mariem's group is completed with Lamgaifri Brahim and Vadiya Mint El Hanevi. Several other musicians contributed to the album, as Senegalese Malick Diaw (guitar), Spanish Kepa Osés (bass), Hugo Westerdahl (bass), Josemi Sánchez (guitar) and Jaime Muñoz (flutes), Iranian Behnam Samani and Davood Varzideh (ney), and Cuban-Haitian Mel Seme (percussionist).

In 2003 Nubenegra edited the album Nar (Fire) from guitarist and singer Nayim Alal.

On November 8, 2007 Tiris released the album Sandtracks on British label Sandblast Records.

In 2007, the American label Sublime Frequencies edited the album Guitar Music from Western Sahara , from the Dakhla-based band Group Doueh. On June 2009, Group Doueh released the album Treeg Salaam (Streets of Peace).

In 2008, Aziza Brahim released with the French label Reaktion her first EP, titled Mi Canto (My Singing). Her LP Mabruk with her band Gulili Mankoo is scheduled for June 2012.

See also

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Najm Allal is a singer, guitarist and writer of lyrics in Spanish from Western Sahara.

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The Gdeim Izik protest camp was a protest camp in Western Sahara, established on 9 October 2010 and lasting into November that year, with related incidents occurring in the aftermath of its dismantlement on 8 November. The primary focus of the protests was against "ongoing discrimination, poverty and human rights abuses against local citizens".

2011 Western Saharan protests

The 2011 Western Saharan protests began on 25 February 2011 as a reaction to the failure of police to prevent anti-Sahrawi looting in the city of Dakhla, Western Sahara, and blossomed into protests across the territory. They were related to the Gdeim Izik protest camp in Western Sahara established the previous fall, which had resulted in violence between Sahrawi activists and Moroccan security forces and supporters. The protests also purportedly drew inspiration from the Arab Spring and successful revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, though according to some commentators, the Arab Spring proper did not reach Western Sahara.

<i>Mariem Hassan, la voz del Sáhara</i> 2007 film

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<i>Mi Canto</i> 2009 studio album by Aziza Brahim

Mi Canto is the debut solo digital ep of Sahrawi singer Aziza Brahim. It was released worldwide on 12 January 2009 by the French label Reaktion, reaching shortly after number one on the World music list of the web Brahim, who produced the album herself, is accompanied by her band Gulili Mankoo in the recording.

Brahim Ghali Sahrawi diplomat and politician

Brahim Ghali is the current president of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and former SADR Ambassador to Algeria. Ghali has served as an historic figure and played a key role in the struggle of the Sahrawi people for self-determination and independence from Morocco. He was instrumental in the creation of the Movement for the Liberation of the Saguia el Hamra and Wadi el Dhahab, the 1970 Zemla Intifada against Spanish rule, the foundation of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro in 1973, and the Sahrawi Republic in 1976. He also played a major role in the Western Sahara War and establishment of MINURSO, the UN peacekeeping mission for the Western Sahara.

<i>El Aaiun egdat</i> 2012 studio album by Mariem Hassan

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<i>Mabruk</i> (album) 2012 studio album by Aziza Brahim

Mabruk is the first LP of Sahrawi singer Aziza Brahim, after her 2008 EP Mi Canto. The album is accompanied by a 16-page booklet which includes French translation of the songs, and a text by Sahrawi writer Bahia Mahmud Awah on the history of their people. It was elected as 2012 World Music Album of the Year by the Dutch magazine Heaven.

Saharan Spanish is the variety of the Spanish language spoken in Western Sahara and adjacent regions. This non-native variety is heavily influenced by both Spanish colonialism and a strong expatriate community who live in Spain and Latin America, particularly Cuba.


  1. Amoros, Luis Giminez (2015). "Azawan: precolonial musical culture and Saharawi nationalism in the refugee camps of the Hamada Desert in Algeria". African Music: Journal of the International Library of African Music. Grahamstown: International Library of African Music, Rhodes University. 10 (1). doi:10.21504/amj.v10i1.1225. ISSN   0065-4019. OCLC   957767693 . Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  2. Renton, Jamie (2005). "Mariem Hassan con Leyond". fROOTS magazine online. FNI Multimedia Publishing. Archived from the original on 2 April 2005. Retrieved 12 January 2010.