Various Artists

A Starry Night in Western Sahara

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This is an album of music from the Saharawi people, now exiled in Algeria due to a struggle with Morocco over Western Sahara. Songs range from traditional love songs to contemporary songs of political protest, though all songs are at the very least tinged with notes of protest. Rhythmic clapping accompanies the majority of the songs, and a small lute or two are added from time to time (in a celebratory song mid-album, the combination of clapping rhythms and lute playing makes the piece sound unmistakably Gnawa aside from the vocals). Vocals are performed by the powerfully voiced Umm Mekiya, whose singing can easily turn to shouting at the drop of a hat. For the purposes of protest, vocal power can be as highly prized as vocal virtuosity, and this album is simply proof of that tendency. Instrumental pieces show off some technical proficiency on the part of the tidinet and ardeen players. The vocals might be rather grating for the average listener, but the album is recommended for cultural and political information reasons nonetheless. Give it a listen for its cause, but perhaps not so much its musicality.

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