Mariem Hassan

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Mariem Hassan
Mariem Hassan.jpg
Mariem Hassan in 2008
Background information
Native name
مريم منت الحسان
Also known asVoice of the Sahara
BornMay 1958
Ued Tazua, Spanish Sahara
Died22 August 2015(2015-08-22) (aged 57)
Sahrawi refugee camps, Tindouf province, Algeria
GenresBlues music, folk music, roots music
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, percussion
Years active1976–2015
Associated actsShahid El Uali, Leyoad, Nayim Alal

Mariem Hassan (Arabic: مريم حسن‎‎; May 1958 – 22 August 2015) was a Sahrawi singer and lyricist from Western Sahara. She usually sang in Hassaniyya, an Arabic dialect spoken mostly in Western Sahara and Mauritania, and occasionally in Spanish. Her use of the Spanish language was related to the former status of Western Sahara as a Spanish colony.



Mariem Hassan was born in May 1958 in the Ued Tazua, 20 km. away from Smara, Spanish Sahara.[1] She was the third of ten siblings in a nomadic family. Music and poetry was important in the family and 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 until 2002, when for work and health reasons she moved to Spain, first to Barcelona and then to Sabadell, where she lived with her husband and sons. She returned to Western Sahara some time prior to her death in 2015.[2][3]


In early 1976, Hassan 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 headlining a number of world music festivals.[4]

In 1998, Shadid El Uali disbanded, and Hassan started her solo career with a pair of songs on the 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).[2]

In 2004, she contributed to the album Medej, followed by extensive touring in Europe (Barcelona, Madrid, Leipzig, Helsinki, Brussels, Zurich, Antwerp). Just before departing for her European tour, she received a diagnosis of breast cancer. She began receiving treatment after returning to Spain, staying there on a permanent basis due to the disease.[5]

In 2005, her real first solo album was released. Deseos (Wishes), a personal interpretation of the traditional Haul music. 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.[6] One of the highlights of the album is the "desert blues" song "La Tumchu anni".[7]

Hassan performed at the WOMEX 2005 in Newcastle,[8] and in several editions and locations of WOMAD festival, as WOMAD Las Palmas de Gran Canaria 2008, WOMAD Cáceres 2008,[9] WOMAD Charlton Park 2009, WOMAD Sicily 2009, WOMADelaide 2010 and WOMAD New Zealand 2010.[10]

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.[11]

In March 2011, she performed for three consecutive days in Caracas, Venezuela, during the "Sahrawi Cultural Week".[12][13]

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 began at the World Village Festival in Helsinki, Finland on 27 April.[14][15][16] In June, she played with her band in Chiasso, Switzerland[17] Her album El Aaiun Egdat reached from the start a number 1 in the World Music Charts Europe in July 2012.[18] 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.[19]

In 2013 Mariem Hassan completed both a Sahrawi oral history project, Cuéntame Abuelo – Música,[20] 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,[21] at the Desert Session in Salento (Southern Italy), in Belgium and in Spain.

In media[edit]

Hassan was the subject of a 2007 documentary film, Mariem Hassan, la voz del Sáhara.[22]

In 2010, Link TV produced a short documentary on Hassan's music and activism, as part of the series "Rappers, Divas and Virtuosos: New Music from the Muslim World."[23]

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.[24]

In 2017 Manuel Domínguez and Zazie Schubert-Wurr published their adventures with Mariem Hassan in her concert tours for 18 years. "The Indomitable Voice"[25] was published in English and Spanish by Nubenegra. A year later the German version was published by Frieling[26] editorial. The book contains her last album "La Voz Indómita" and a DVD.


Hassan died of bone cancer in the Sahrawi refugee camps of Tindouf province, Algeria on 22 August 2015.[1][2][3]

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).[27]


Studio albums[edit]

Collaboration albums[edit]


Featured in[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Denselow, Robin (27 August 2015). "Mariem Hassan obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Romero, Angel (22 August 2015). "Saharawi Music Star Mariem Hassan Dies in Refugee Camps". World Music Central. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  3. ^ a b "The Sahrawi singer Mariem Hassan dies after illness". Sahara Press Service. 22 August 2015. Archived from the original on 24 August 2015. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  4. ^ "Aziza Brahim, singer and refugee, is bringing the songs of Western Sahara to the world". The National. 13 March 2014. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  5. ^ "THE SAHRAWI NURSE POPSTAR WHO BATTLED CANCER AND UNITED HER PEOPLE THROUGH SONG". Thaqafa Magazine. 11 December 2014. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  6. ^ "Baba Salama Said – Biography". World Music Central. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  7. ^ "Mariem Hassan – Deseos". Nubenegra. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  8. ^ "WOMEX 2005, Largest World Music Conference a Winner". World Music Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  9. ^ "25 artistas internacionales marcarán el ritmo multicultural de WOMAD Cáceres". El Mundo (in Spanish). 24 April 2008. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  10. ^ "Mariem Hassan". WOMAD. Archived from the original on 16 April 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  11. ^ "Mariem Hassan – Shouka". Nubenegra. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  12. ^ La Voz del Desierto, Mariem Hassan en Caracas Archived 3 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine – Semanario Cultural de Caracas, 17 al 23 de Marzo 2011, nº 141 (in Spanish)
  13. ^ Esta semana está dedicada a la cultura de la República Saharaui Correo del Orinoco, 15 March 2011 (in Spanish)
  14. ^ "El Aaiún Egdat New Album by Sahrawi Music Diva Mariem Hassan". World Music 21 March 2012. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  15. ^ "Arde El Aaiun". Nubenegra. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  16. ^ "Saharawi singer, Mariam Hasan will present her new album at the world village Festival in Helsinki". Sahara Press Service. 8 May 2012. Archived from the original on 10 March 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  17. ^ Mariem Hassan Chiasso Cultura,
  18. ^ "World Music Charts Europe August 2012". Worldmusic Workshop of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). 1 August 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  19. ^ Programming
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ "Mojo Station Blues Festival Roma 2013" (in Italian). Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  22. ^ Mariem Hassan: the Voice of the Sahara Melbourne Filmoteca.
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 March 2015. Retrieved 13 September 2015.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ "Mariem Hassan. Soy Saharaui" (in Spanish). Calamar. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  25. ^ "The Indomitable Voice". World Music Central.
  26. ^ "Mariem Hassan, Die unbeugsame Stimme der Westsahara".
  27. ^ "Mariem Hassan-Interview".
  28. ^ Xango Music – Hassan, Mariem & Vadiya Mint el Hanevi – Baila Sahara Baila
  29. ^ "La voz indómita".
  30. ^ "El Hechizo de Babilonia". Billboard. 14 April 2001. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  31. ^ "Mariem Hassan". Nubenegra. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  32. ^ "Western Sahara" – Hugo Westerdahl

External links[edit]

  • Profile,; accessed 3 September 2015. (in Spanish)