I struggled last year to be energised by the music I was hearing. Little seemed to be breaking new ground or even beautifully relaying the old ground enough to entice me on to it. Perhaps I just wasn’t hearing the right stuff. 2014 had been laden with diamonds and perhaps I was hoping too much to keep up the pace.
This year, however, is promising new riches…. and long may it continue. First up, and hot off the presses, or whatever the digital equivalent is, released just a couple of weeks ago, the third album from Aziza Brahim, an Algerian artiste of some quality.
Aziza Brahim was new to me and featured on the cover of “Songlines” magazine promoting her album – and rightly too. She should be proud of what is an excellent collection indeed.
Born in an Algerian refugee camp to where her mother had fled following the occupation of their land by Morocco 40 years ago, Aziza is a Saharawi, always inspired by music and encouraged as an artist by her grandmother, herself a noted poet. Aziza grew up in the camps and was able to take her schooling in Cuba later returning to perform amongst her own people and to pursue her dream of becoming a musician. She now lives and works in Barcelona but her music harks back to her homeland of the Sahara desert and the troubles, strifes and struggles of her people and the people of the desert.
The album, “Abbar el Hamada”, (Across the Hamada) is dedicated “to my people, after forty years of occupation, exile and diaspora” . The music is a meld of “pop-py” pulsating rhythms overlaid with engaging catchy melodies with some serious desert blues thrown in for flavour. The guitar work is up front, clean and crisp, and the vocals, in Hassaniya (an Arabic dialect) and Spanish, weave the message above the infectious beats.
The first two tracks, “Buscando la Paz” and “Calles de Dajla” hook you in and then “El canto de la arena” slows down the pace with a slow blues to match the best.
As music from around the world becomes more accessible to Western ears and, of course, markets, it is refreshing to find that there is still an untapped mine of originality out there. I remain amazed that artists such as Aziza Brahim can sing of such human torment with an uplifting spirit. Perhaps it is in the blood – to maintain the fight – yet be mindful of the blessings of humanity.
Aziza is touring Europe in the Spring and I am looking forward to the London show. But if you can’t make it and like what you hear, retrace your footsteps and check out 2014’s “Soutak” album. Equally good.