Mariem Hassan

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Mariem Hassan
مريم حسن
Mariem Hassan.jpg
Mariem Hassan performing in WOMAD 2008 (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 7 November 2008)
Background information
Also known as Voice of the Sahara
Born 1958
Ued Tazua, Smara, Spanish Sahara
Genres Blues music, folk music, roots music
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Vocalist
Years active 1976–present
Labels Nubenegra
Associated acts Shahid El Uali, Leyoad, Nayim Alal

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.



Mariem Hassan was born in 1958 in the Ued Tazua, 20 km. away from Smara, Spanish Sahara. She was the third of a total of 10 siblings of a nomadic family. Although they weren't an Igaouen family, music and poetry was important in the family, as various relatives were singers, poets or dancers. In 1975, following the Green March and the Madrid Accords which ceded the territory to Morocco and Mauritania, she went with her family, first to Meharrize and finally to the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria, where she worked as nurse. Three of her brothers were killed during the Western Sahara War. She lived there for 27 years, until 2002, when for work and health reasons she moved to Spain, first to Barcelona and finally to Sabadell, where she lives with her husband and sons.


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.

Mariem started her solo career with a pair of songs in the 1998 (the year that "Shahid El Uali" disbanded) v.v.a.a. album A pesar de las heridas, released by the Spanish label Nubenegra. For the following concerts in Europe, she was accompanied with the group "Leyoad" (in which Nayim Alal plays the guitar). Following the success of their live performances, they recorded in 2000 a collaboration album, Mariem Hassan con Leyoad (in 2002).

In 2004, she contributed to the v.v.a.a. album Medej, followed by extensive touring in Europe (Barcelona, Madrid, Leipzig, Helsinki, Brussels, Zurich, Antwerp). One week before leaving Belgium, she received a diagnosis of breast cancer and was operated on right after returning to Spain.

In 2005, her real first solo album was released. Deseos (Wishes), Hassan's personal interpretation of the traditional Haul music, was defined[by whom?] as an "ardent album, full of rhythm". It doesn't reveal the tragedies happening during its recording: the death from leukemia of Baba Salama (producer of the album and lead guitarist) before the album was published and Hassan's struggle with breast cancer. In March 2005, she was hospitalized in Spain for treatment.[1] One of the highlights of the album is the "desert blues" song "La Tumchu anni".[2]

She was the subject of a 2007 documentary film, Mariem Hassan, la voz del Sáhara.[3]

She had performed at the WOMEX 2005 in Newcastle,[4] and in several editions and locations of WOMAD festival, as WOMAD Las Palmas de Gran Canaria 2008, WOMAD Cáceres 2008,[5] WOMAD Charlton Park 2009, WOMAD Sicily 2009, WOMADelaide 2010 and WOMAD New Zealand 2010.[6]

In 2010, a new album was published. Shouka (The Thorn) represented a deep approach to the Haul and even the roots of Azawan music, but also with western influences. The main song "Shouka" is structured as a cantata, touching all the rhythms of the Sahrawi traditional music, in which Mariem gives a response paragraph by paragraph to the 1976 speech of Felipe González at the Sahrawi refugee camps. Some critics compared her sound with Tuareg bands like Tinariwen, while others denied similarities.[7]

In March 2011, she performed for three consecutive days in Caracas, Venezuela, during the "Sahrawi Cultural Week".[8][9]

In late March 2012, her third solo album titled El Aaiun Egdat (El Aaiun on fire), inspired by the Sahrawi protests during and after the Gdeim Izik protest camp and the "Arab Spring", was published. This work marked a musical change, including blues and jazz sounds to the traditional haul structures. Several songs had lyrics written by old Sahrawi poets in exile, like Ali Bachir and Lamin Allal. A European tour for the album is scheduled to start at the World Village Festival in Helsinki, Finland on 27 April.[dated info][10][11][12] In June, she played with her band in Chiasso, Switzerland[13] Her album El Aaiun Egdat reached from the start a number 1 in the World Music Charts Europe in July 2012.[14] In November, Mariem Hassan was one of the headlining acts of the III edition of the "Festival du Sahel", a music festival taking place in the Lompoul desert, Senegal.[15]

In 2013 Mariem Hassan completed both a Sahrawi oral history project, Cuéntame Abuelo – Música,[16] and a tour to promote the album El Aaiun Egdat. During this tour she performed European venues such as Malmo and Goteborg (at the Clandestino Festival) in Sweden, in Portugal, in Marseilles at the Babel Med Festival, in Rome at the ninth Mojo Station Blues Festival,[17] at the Desert Session in Salento (Southern Italy), in Belgium and in Spain.

In October 2014, Calamar Edicion y Diseño published Hassan's official biography in the form of a graphic novel, Mariem Hassan – Soy Saharaui, written and illustrated by Italian authors Gianluca Diana, Andromalis, and Federica Marzioni.[18]

Noted lyrics[edit]

Among her works is the Spanish language song "Tus ojos lloran" ("Your eyes weep"), dealing with her personal experience of a woman coping with the sufferings of life and bereavement (the deaths of her father and two of her brothers).[19]

Background and reputation[edit]

She is widely considered as the most representative voice of Sahrawi music.[citation needed] Her work has been added to National Geographic's World Music Database.[20] She has collaborated with the singer and lyricist Nayim Alal, also a Western Sahara native.


Studio albums[edit]

Collaboration album[edit]


Featured in[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Baba Salama Said – Biography". World Music Central. Retrieved 8 April 2012. 
  2. ^ "Mariem Hassan – Deseos". Nubenegra. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  3. ^ Mariem Hassan: the Voice of the Sahara Melbourne Filmoteca.
  4. ^ "WOMEX 2005, Largest World Music Conference a Winner". World Music Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  5. ^ "25 artistas internacionales marcarán el ritmo multicultural de WOMAD Cáceres" (in Spanish). El Mundo. 24 April 2008. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  6. ^ "Mariem Hassan". WOMAD. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  7. ^ "Mariem Hassan – Shouka". Nubenegra. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  8. ^ La Voz del Desierto, Mariem Hassan en Caracas – Semanario Cultural de Caracas, 17 al 23 de Marzo 2011, nº 141 (Spanish)
  9. ^ Esta semana está dedicada a la cultura de la República Saharaui Correo del Orinoco, 15 March 2011 (Spanish)
  10. ^ "El Aaiún Egdat New Album by Sahrawi Music Diva Mariem Hassan". World Music 21 March 2012. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  11. ^ "Arde El Aaiun". Nubenegra. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  12. ^ "Saharawi singer, Mariam Hasan will present her new album at the world village Festival in Helsinki". Sahara Press Service. 8 May 2012. Retrieved 12 May 2012. 
  13. ^ Mariem Hassan Chiasso Cultura,
  14. ^ "World Music Charts Europe August 2012". Worldmusic Workshop of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). 1 August 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2012. 
  15. ^ Programming
  16. ^ Lasuen, Ainhoa (3 January 2013). "Mariem Hassan: "Nunca hubiese pensado que la música saharaui llegara tan alto"". El Correo (in Spanish). Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  17. ^ "Mojo Station Blues Festival Roma 2013" (in Italian). Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  18. ^ "Mariem Hassan. Soy Saharaui" (in Spanish). Calamar. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  19. ^ "Mariem Hassan-Interview". 
  20. ^ "Mariem Hassan". National Geographic World Music. National Geographic. [dead link]

External links[edit]