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by World Music Network May 01, 2013


Saharawi Voices: Studio-Live Project

The Saharawi homeland of Western Sahara - roughly the size of Great Britain - was colonized by Spain for hundred years until 1975. Under Morocco’s occupation it is now the last colony in Africa. The tens of thousands of Saharawis living there have become a minority in their own land, enjoying few rights and freedom. They are separated from the Saharawis refugees in Algeria by a 2700 kilometers long Moroccan built wall which divides their territory. Numbering around 150,000, the refugees are spread out over five large camps and are entirely dependent on precarious flows of food aid for their survival.
The impact of protracted refugee life and Morocco's integrationist policies in Western Sahara, however, have seriously disrupted this process of cultural transmission and, as the elders die out, many aspects of Saharawi culture risk disappearing entirely over the next generation.
Two generations of Saharawis have now grown up entirely in the refugee camps with little knowledge of their roots and history. Saharawis of eighteen years old and under now account for over fifty-nine percent of the refugee population. In the absence of a lasting solution to the ongoing conflict in Western Sahara, this youth have few prospects of experiencing fulfilling, productive and culturally enhancing lives. 
Saharawi Camps
Studio-Liveaims to facilitate the development of a Saharawi music industry in in the refugee camps, in the Algerian Sahara, over the next three years. It also hopes to contribute towards the preservation of their threatened oral heritage. The project activities will primarily focus on working with emerging and more established music talent and encourage the participation of women and youth.  Working in close collaboration with the Saharawi Ministry of Culture, in the camps, and UK- based partners such as FairTunes, Refugee Radio, SOAS Radio and The Moringa Tree, Studio-Live will be responding to Saharawi aspirations to be able to reach international audiences through their music, promote their culture and express their struggle peacefully.
Studio-Live project includes the creation of a mobile music resource library to make instruments and sound equipment available for rental to all Saharawis seeking to pursue their musical ambitions. Refugee Saharawis will also have access to professional workshops to build instrumental, artistic and music-business skills; as well as  training in sound engineering workshops, both for recording and live. 
The project, ran by ethnomusicologist Violeta Ruano and Sandblast founder Danielle Smith, was highly supported by Saharawi singer Aziza Brahim, who came to London end of April 2013, for the Sahara Live Week event. 

Check Sandblast website for more information