In the Western Sahara, Music is a Bridge


by Washington Quezada

In 1975, Spain abandoned its position as colonizer of the African Northwest, producing an intense instability among the people in the region. Morocco took advantage of this situation by invading the land that belonged to the Saharawi people, who had to live from then on in refugee camps in Algeria. Mariem Hassan, who had been part of the clandestine parties celebrating Saharawi culture during the Spanish colonial period, became a messenger for her people, communicating the living conditions they suffered, isolated in the refugee camps. She traveled with a group of musicians to let the world know about the Saharawi situation.

During this decade, groups and solo singers exiled from Chile and Argentina also became messengers, describing the problems and social struggles in their countries. During the 80s, groups like Cutumay Camones and Yolocamba Ita traveled the world with their music and poetry, letting their audiences know about the atrocities committed by the government and military in El Salvador.

Then, in the 90s, a movement developed among musicians, artists and intellectuals, a movement that through the creativity of its participants became a declaration of solidarity with social and political struggles that had been gestating around the world. Within the music world, names like Manu Chao, Café Tacuba, Bersuit Vergarabat, Macaco, Maldita Vecidad y los Hijos de Quinto Patio represented some of the many artists carrying the message against globalization and in support of indigenous people, immigrants to the First World, and other groups that had been historically marginalized.

It was among these lovers of the cultural “mestizaje” that Spanish singer Amparo Sánchez developed her musical career, together with the group called “Amparanoia.” The music talks about their solidarity with the indigenous and the socio-political uprising in southern Mexico (the Zapatistas), the constant struggle of women to create a society with opportunity for everyone, and their love for the sounds of the world.

In 2007, Mariem Hassan and Amparo Sánchez met in the Saharawi refugee camp “Dajla” in the Western Sahara. It’s there that this YouTube video was filmed, a beautiful memory of the meeting of two cultures, two languages and two stories.

To listen to Amparo Sanchez, visit her myspace.

To hear more of Mariem Hassam visit YouTube

Washington Quezada hosts “The Trip” on KZFR radio at 90.1 FM. Catch his show between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. every other Sunday.

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