Mariem Hassan

Emerging from life in the sprawling Algerian refugee camps, this is raw, powerful music that has shared DNA with groups like Tinariwen.

Mariem Hassan (Arabic: مريم حسن‎, born 1958), is a Sahrawi singer and lyricist from Western Sahara. She sings usually in Hassaniyya, an Arabic dialect spoken mostly in Western Sahara and Mauritania, and occasionally in Spanish. Her use of the Spanish language relates to the former status of Western Sahara as a Spanish colony.

Like her Malian brothers, Hassan songs of the bitter conflict that has raged for three decades between the Sahara’s indigenous people and the various governments that claim dominion of its expansive territory. Sometimes the hard land has the best music. For all its hostility and fragile human existence, here the desert is yielding music that speaks with deep roots that penetrates the soul. Hassan fuses the haul, the traditional music of the Saharawi with earthy blues guitar to create an intense and visceral experience, her defiant voice soaring over the top spurred on by hypnotic grooves that build a gripping intensity.

In early 1976 she joined the musical group Shahid El Hafed Buyema, which, following the death in combat of El-Ouali Mustapha Sayed, first president of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, became Shahid El Uali. She travelled with the band to many countries, playing at cultural events, and recorded a few albums on different countries (Holland in 1980 [unreleased], France in 1989), with the help of local solidarity committees. The most known of those albums was Polisario vencerá, recorded in Spain in 1982.