Aziza Brahim: Soutak – album review

Aziza Braham – Soutak (Glitterbeat)
LP/CD/DL
Out Now

9/10

The new album from Aziza Brahim features a mixture of Malian, Spanish and Cuban cultures. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates is enthralled.

It’s certainly an interesting proposition, a singer with Saharan roots who then moved on to Cuba and Spain whilst being refused the chance to follow a degree in music along the way. Not only that but being produced by Glitterbeat founder and original member of The Walkabouts, Chris Eckman, is something rather special given that another of his projects, Dirtmusic, received 10/10 from Louder Than War for last year’s Troubles album.

Aziza Brahim was born amongst Saharawi refugee camps along the line of Algeria and Western Sahara. With obvious political oppression, she moved to Cuba to further her education. Despite the refusal of her music degree she went back to Algeria and then to Barcelona where she founded Gulili Mankoo, a group with roots both in Saharawi and Spain.

Soutak (translated as Your Voice) was recorded live and focuses on her striking voice which is mesmerizing and beautiful and sings lyrics which are both intimate and universal. Despite words of incredible power, the tracks are woven together by her exceptional knowledge of song and sound.

Dedicated to her mother, standout track Julud, describes an undying belief in the Saharawi political struggle – ‘You are an example of humanity and of fight’. One of many tracks on the album with a familiar sound as though you’ve heard them many times before. Julud is haunting in its simplicity and the musicianship is sublime.

 

The Spanish element is obvious with some lovely acoustic guitars and tracks like Aradana showcase the extraordinary voice perfectly backed only by percussion and multiple voices towards the end. Again, the lyrics are powerful but retain the mystique and beauty throughout – ‘one day a storm came and took him away. Calmness reigned in the circle of tents and beyond’.

The title track too is stunning. Inventive music and angelic voice carry the tune from start to finish. Articulate guitar work and a lovely melody make this as enthralling as anything you will hear this year. For over two minutes, album closer Ya Watani (My Land) is nothing more than Aziza and her amazing voice. Subtle hypnotic guitars then come into effect to accompany her dulcet tones.

There are few albums that will affect you the way that Soutak does. Original and gorgeous, and a very very talented singer.

~
 

The Aziza Brahim BlogSpot is here. You can follow her on Twitter here and on Facebook here.

All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog. Paul is working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, the BBCs longest running alternative music programme. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow hiapop Blog on Twitter, @hiapop.

 

 

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  1. I still cannot remember how i found out about this concert, but i saw Aziza Brahim at a mini festival called Sahara Soul at the Barbican Centre in London, UK, i guess i got some obscure email about it, i cannot remember. I researched her music on Youtube before the concert and immediately fell in love with Julud as it is so beautifully sung and as you say, haunting. She was headlining the concert and throughout her performance she was smiling and laughing as she was so obviously enjoying performing for us. Apparently she is not too well known in the UK but the concert was sold out and 2,000 people in the audience gave her very rousing applause during her performance. I had decided to wait to buy any CDs until i had watched the concert and after/at the concert i bought Soutak straight away.
    Also on the bill was Noura Mint Seymali from Mauritania and her singing was so completely different, very loud and in your face, so i will find her more difficult to get into. Noura plays the Aridine, a 9 string harp and this is exclusively to be played by women. She is backed by her husband on modified electric guitar (Frets moved) and played through a phaser, unique sound. The guitar lines follow the melody of the singing, very unusual.
    At the very end of the concert Ms Seymali and Ms Brahim (Respect) sang a duet together with just Aziza on the hand drum and they hugged and kissed in mutual respect and the duet went down a storm.
    Yes! please do not publish my email address as years ago i commented on my favourite all time band’s website and they published my email address and Spammers got hold of it and i ended up getting 60 Spam emails a day – thanks.

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