One of the highlights of this year’s Womadelaide, an incredible 4 day and night celebration of cultural music in Adelaide’s Botanical Gardens was Western Sahara’s Aziza Brahim. Her music was incredible, a smooth and breezy connection between her Western Saharan roots and current residence in Barcelona, with her incredible soulful impassioned vocals soaring over the top. At the time I wasn’t aware of her geographic movement, so I was puzzled by these periodic breakdowns or solos that so clearly referenced Spanish flamenco music. It felt less like two worlds colliding than two worlds integrating, which of course subsequently makes sense. It was odd but beautiful and I kept going back. Her two sets were impassioned statements of her homeland that were particularly potent when midway she put down the mic and began playing percussion. It was unmissable. Though I’ve come late to the party (this was released back in March 2016) it’s refreshing to discover that all the qualities that were present in her live show are highlighted here.
Abbar el Hamada is remarkably smooth, perhaps Sade smooth. It’s beautiful, particularly for an album that is dedicated to those refugees stranded in Western Sahara. Her desert blues are particularly potent, predominantly acoustic based, allowing plenty of space for her remarkable vocals. Brahim was raised in a refugee camp in Algeria, and her music displays an empathy for all those stranded by false borders and displaced or imprisoned by the greed of others. But you don’t need to understand the words. This woman radiates warmth and musicality like few others. One of the most beautiful and powerful musical statements you will hear in a long time.