When the Somali civil war broke out, Sahra Halgan was a teenager with dreams of being a singer. She soon found herself working as a singing nurse for the rebels fighting for Somaliland’s liberation from Siaad Barre’s regime. She arrived in Lyon, France as a political refugee in 1992, where she worked in a café and as a musician. Today, she is back in Somaliland where she runs a center for musicians and poets. Considered an icon to many in her home region, her unique, clear voice with its powerful vibrato is synonymous with the freedom struggle. But instead of resting on her laurels, Sahra Halgan wants to use her music to spread the word about Somaliland—a self-proclaimed state not recognized internationally. She still has strong ties to Europe, not least through the two remaining members of her trio, Aymeric Krol and Mael Saletes. Together, they create a global Somaliland music with seriously funky drums and electric guitar.
When KOKOKO! exploded the dance floor during their concert at Clandestino Festival 2017, they were unknown and had not even released a single. Since then, they have toured the globe, ruled at South by Southwest and signed with British label Transgressive. KOKOKO! is a collaboration between musicians from Democratic Republic of Congo French electronic groove maestro Débruit. During his first visit to the mega city of Kinshasa, he was first overwhelmed. Electric power kept failing all over the city, but music was heard in every street corner. The majority of musicians could not afford instruments but made use of whatever was at hand. So when Débruit met members of KOKOKO! and heard their complex techno jams on a xylophone made of plastic containers, accompanied by typewriter drums, he was fascinated. It was the start of a collaboration where Kinshasa’s street sounds merge with the electronic playfulness loved by Débruit’s fans. The result can be heard on the debut album Fongola, a futuristic party record beyond traditions and clichés about African music.
She grew up in a refugee camp in the desert of Algeria, along with thousands of others forced to leave their homes in Western Sahara. Inspired by her grandmother, Aziza Brahim began to sing and play music as a little girl. Eventually, in various groups that toured internationally, refugee life would become a recurring theme of Aziza Brahim’s beautifully melancholic music. She sings in Hassaniya Arabic but also in Spanish about the injustices that people in the camps experience–not just the Western Saharan people but all the millions of refugees on the planet. As an 11-year-old, she was given the opportunity to study in Cuba, and was infleunced by rhythms and melodies that can be discerned in her music to this day. In recent years, Aziza Brahim’s perspective has become more international. She lives in Spain now, and collaborates with guitarist Amparo Sánchez on Sahari, an album where her own traditions are mixed with electronic global sounds.