Sahara soul at the Barbican

Posted on October 24, 2014 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

I have always had a fascination with the Sahara. I think what appeals to me is its mystery, beauty, danger, scale, harshness, unpredictability and 'nothingness'. In my early 20s, I read Paul Bowles' novels, listened to his music and embarked on an adventure with a companion to the Sahara via Morocco. It was the first time I had ever seen a desert, but the two-hour camel ride into the desert and oasis was far from comfortable. We suffered from heat exhaustion (it was over 42 degrees), so our 'romantic' view of the desert was dashed instantly. Yet it was hard to forget the hospitality we received from the Tuareg/ 'Blue People' and the breath-taking view of the desert. Many years later, I returned to the Sahara again from the Tunisian side, it was a more pleasant journey, but the desert remained as mysterious as ever.



Sunset at Saraha


Last month I went to the second Sahara Soul concert at the Barbican centre. My memories of the desert returned, and I felt like I was back in time. The evening was a celebration of the desert, its people and music. Although I felt that the programme was slightly too long, the energy and passion of the musicians was felt by the audience and we didn't need to understand the lyrics to appreciate the beautiful music. Unlike the traditional African or tribal music, the music being performed is influenced by other genres and styles, so it is contemporary and distinctive. Meanwhile, it also acts as a powerful weapon to draw people's attention to the ongoing conflicts in Western Africa. The performers are not well-known in the UK, but they are talented and compelling, so I want to share their music here:


Nabil Baly Othmani is is the son of iconic Algerian Tuareg singer Othman Bali. Nabil is following in his footsteps, while at the same time carving out his own musical path. His music is a mix of flamenco, fuzzy rock, melancholy folk and even electronica, so it is unique and refreshing.


 Nabil Baly Othmani - Menna (2014)


 Steve Shehan & Nabil Othmani - Awalin (2009)


Tartit is a Tuareg band from the Timbuktu region of of Mali consists of five women and four men, all of whom are Tamasheq-speaking Tuareg. Tartit formed in 1992 in a refugee camp in Mauritania, where their music was a means of survival in the face of the economic, social and political difficulties in the region. Tartit’s compositions include traditional Tuareg ballads, dances and call-and-response songs. These instruments are accompanied by chants and percussive handclaps.


Tartit - Ichichilla


Born in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria and now based in Barcelona, Aziza Brahim is the granddaughter of Al Khadra, the legendary ‘Sahrawi war poetess’. Playing hand drums and backed by a Spanish acoustic band which infuses flamenco and jazz to her Sahrawi rhythms, Aziza is using her music to make people aware of the conflict in her homeland.


Aziza Brahim - Julud (2014)


Young Mauritanian singer Noura Mint Seymali is the daughter of Dimi Mint Abba, the ‘Diva of the Desert’. Noura fuses ancient and modern Moorish influences, blending psychedelic guitars and transcendental grooves with impassioned, commanding vocals.


 Noura Mint Seymali - Tzenni (2014)



This post was posted in London, Music & Sound, Social issues and was tagged with London, music, Barbican, world music