Soutak is the second solo album of the exiled Sahrawi singer and songwriter Aziza Brahim. Though she now lives in Barcelona (after spending most of her life in refugee camps) and regularly tours Western Europe and the Mediterranean, she has continually fought the Sahrawi cause. Her native country remains disputed territory by a variety of warring international governmental and even mercenary corporate factions. This set is acoustic; an electric bass the only derivation from the nylon-string guitars and percussion sounds. Brahim notes in her liner essay that she wanted Soutak to reflect the music of Mali, the North African nation whose way of life has been threatened and attacked by Islamist factions that violently attempted to outlaw music (an indigenous character trait of its people). Opener "Gdeim Izik" reflects the influence of the Touaregs and the desert blues. Album producer Chris Eckman -- who also produces Tamikrest -- cut this live and direct in Barcelona; he underscores the droning guitars and lyric bassline in the mix as the tabal (a West African drum that resembles a portable tom-tom in appearance and is played with sticks) and congas drive Brahim's vocal as it bears witness to torture, murder, and imprisonment. "Espejismos" walks the line between Sahrawi folk music, Malian blues, and Catalonian folk music. "Julud" is an ornate and tender homage to her mother. "Aradana" is mournful; Brahim's voice is accompanied only by the tabal and Badra Abdallahe's harmony vocal. Its refrain, "and the mist returned without him…" refers to her father, whom she never met -- he's one of the many who remain unaccounted for and presumed dead during the conflict. The slow, processional movement of "Espejismos" is a song of rage played with a trance-like groove. The title cut is the set's most uptempo and hard-driving number here, and it's a love song. The Touareg vamps are wed perfectly to the percussive tropes from Sahrawi refugee music. "Manos Enemigas" uses Malian blues in the intro and first verse. It commences as a plea, but after the refrain and bridge, it shifts dramatically, becoming a statement of resistance and conviction. Spanish flamenco is woven in, adding dynamic force. Soutak is another step in the evolution of Brahim's music; it expresses a mastery that allows her to expertly combine musical and lyric traditions at will in order to attain the desired effect. Soutak bears witness to the loss and tragedy of Sahrawi's refugee struggle, but it also expresses defiance and unwavering hope.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek