Aziza Brahim

(Western Sahara)


Aziza Brahim is a Sahrawi singer who was born in a refugee camp in Algeria.

In this interview she speaks about how and why her music is banned in Western Sahara.


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Aziza Brahim refers to the Western Sahara territory as ‘the occupied zone’, and in this video interview she says: “There they never could listen to any of my music. The only way to listen to my music is do it ‘under cover’!”

Aziza Brahim’s family come from El Aaiun, the capital of the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara. Her then pregnant mother fled when the Moroccans occupied the territory in 1975, and Aziza was exiled before she was born. Aziza never met her father who stayed behind in the occupied Western Sahara.

Studies in Cuba
At the age of 11 Aziza received a scholarship to study in Cuba. She spent seven years there, before abandoning her studies in order to pursue a career in music.

Aziza Brahim won the first prize in a song competition at a cultural festival of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic – the self-proclaimed Saharawi state, exiled in the refugee camps in Algeria, and recognised by over 80 countries.

Spanish label
Aziza Brahim did her first recordings for the Saharawi National Radio in the refugee camps and from there came her first tour outside the camps in Mauritania and Algeria as part of the National Saharawi Music Group. In 1998 the Spanish record company Nubenegra published the trilogy ‘Saharauis’, which included two songs of hers. From 1998 to 2004 she made several tours with the Saharawi music group Leyuad in Europe.

In 2005, together with the latin-jazz band Yayabo, Aziza Brahim made her first experiments with mixing the traditional music from Western Sahara with other music styles. Presently she is working with her new group, Gulili Mankoo which plays a mix of Western Sahara music, rhythms from Senegal, blues and rock music.

Aziza now lives in Spain and has a growing reputation internationally.

Aziza Brahim’s Spanish-language blog on

MySpace profile of Aziza Brahim:

Western Sahara Info on
‘Sahara blues: the refugee music’

The video clip is produced by Freemuse. It was recorded on 19 September 2008 in Copenhagen, Denmark, by Ole Reitov.
Poster for the event. Translated to English by Alexander Nicolas Truelsen. Video postproduction by Mik Aidt

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5:23 minutes

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Western Sahara

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Interview with Aziza Brahim

Transcription of the video recording of 19 September 2008

Many artists feel that their rights are being stepped upon. Because there are so many Sahrawi artists who want to sing their songs and make their own productions in freedom. A lot of them can’t express themselves in a free way, so they have to do it in a “camouflaged” way.
In that way the others (the Morrocans) don’t understand what they are singing, because the artists speak Hasaniya – the language of the Sahrawis, and the people on “the other side” (in the occupied zone) don’t understand that.

    (Singing a verse from ’Tierra de Paz’:)

    In the darkness of the night
    In the streets of the city of Aaiun
    I see my nice dream grow
    and it is becoming bigger
    in the city of Aaiun

This song is called ’Tierra de Paz’ (’Land of Peace’). It is about the Intifada (the uprising). The lyrics are simple and metaforic.
A person is wandering through a very lonely and dark night, and the dreams that she are having are becoming real.
Suddenly she feels free… And confused. Because all the freedom she was hoping for has become reality.
It is like that kind of feeling that you would never be having if you had not been going for a walk in a dark and lonely night.
But it’s only an idea. Just like dreams are also ideas and from there they become reality. The song is about that reality.

It is my dream that this song could be heard in the occupied areas, because the song was written after the third Intifada – the last one – in 2007.
I would like my people to be able to listen to it so that it could be a support, a voice that could incite… and cheer them up. But I don’t think it will become reality, because there, they never could listen to any of my music. The only way to listen to my music is by doing it “under cover”. Impossible.

What would happen to a person who listens to a piece of my music? All I do with my songs is to bring forward a message of freedom as an expression of freedom on all levels. A person who listens to my music could easily risk being arrested. Or disappear… Or he could be tortured.

Art can’t be expressed in the occupied territories. It is illegal to show the West Saharan flag. Simply to use Sahrawi style in a piece of art would be very difficult. The painters… if they make a painting with the colours of the Sahrawi flag then that would be considered a provocation towards the Morrocan regime. For the Morrocan that is a provocation. For us it is a just a way to express ourselves.

Aziza Brahim sings La Sensación Del Tanque in Merida, Spain — on YouTube:

Scanarama, thanks to seed funding from The Simon Cumbers Media Fund, have started producing a documentary film about Aziza. Shooting will be completed early 2010.

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