The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

Ab­bar el Ha­mada Az­iza Brahim Glit­ter­beat/Planet La Voz In­domita Mariem Has­san Nubene­gra No two mu­si­cians have done more to raise global aware­ness of the plight of West­ern Sa­hara, the for­mer Span­ish colony that was their home­land un­til Morocco se­cured ad­min­is­tra­tive con­trol in the 1970s, than singers Az­iza Brahim and Mariem Has­san. Mem­bers of the na­tion’s in­dige­nous Sa­harawi pop­u­la­tion, the di­vas are still strut­ting their stuff from else­where: Brahim from her base in Spain; Has­san posthu­mously, hav­ing died in a south­west Al­ge­rian refugee camp in 2015 — less than six months af­ter record­ing the solo un­ac­com­pa­nied track that pro­vides a poignant farewell on her vale­dic­tory al­bum, La Voz In­domita. “The In­domitable Voice” col­lates some fiercely pas­sion­ate pre­vi­ously un­re­leased songs recorded dur­ing her fi­nal five years.

Brahim’s lat­est al­bum is less stri­dent than Has­san’s swan song. Sev­eral of her new songs bear the mes­meris­ing desert blues rhythm more closely associated with Tuareg mu­si­cians in the south­ern Sa­ha­ran north­ern re­gion of Mali. Most are im­bued with a Latin feel more closely aligned to the mu­sic of Barcelona, where she recorded Ab­bar el Ha­mada — like its pre­de­ces­sor, Soutak — un­der the ex­pert su­per­vi­sion of Glit­ter­beat la­bel co-founder-pro­ducer and Dirt­mu­sic mem­ber Chris Eck­man.

The in­flu­ences of her adopted Cata­lan home are ev­i­dent in Bus­cando La Paz, the cruisy Latino pop opener that opens the set. Ab­bar el Ha­mada has a West African lilt in step with its ti­tle, an ex­pres­sion used by the Sa­harawi peo­ple to de­scribe the rocky desert area along the Al­ge­ri­anWestern Sa­ha­ran fron­tier where tens of thou­sands of Sa­harawi peo­ple are domi­ciled. La Cordillera Ne­gra has laid-back AfroCuban am­bi­ence, with tasty gui­tar and per­cus­sion breaks. El Canto de la Arena, a beau­ti­fully sung and melo­di­ous fado-styled bal­lad, car­ries a haunt­ing wood­wind solo. Calles de Da­jla be­gins with ul­u­la­tions from Brahim, whose singing ranges from an­gelic to an­gry, de­pend­ing on lyrics.

Ulu­lat­ing is the trade­mark of Has­san’s pow­er­ful singing and songs, some of which are pre­ceded by mawwals, a tra­di­tional genre of Ara­bic vo­cal mu­sic. Trans­la­tions re­veal un­sur­pris­ingly sad lyrics about her home­land, but also ten­der trea­tises on love. Like her com­pa­triot, she in­cor­po­rates West­ern styling — most strik­ingly jazz. Has­san’s soar­ing vo­cals work sym­bi­ot­i­cally with trum­pet and pi­ano on two tracks and in a deadly duet with trum­pet on a stark song re­lated to con­flict. A plea on be­half of global or­phans fea­tures Has­san in a duet with Seydu, a Sierra Leonean refugee whose croon­ing pro­vides a wel­come con­trast to Has­san’s in­ten­sity. Else­where, she swaps verses with a Ye­menite-Is­raeli vo­cal­ist be­fore they join forces for a thrilling fi­nale.

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