MESA Banner
Singing the Sahara: Claiming the Western Sahara in Popular Music
The Green March of November 1975 set off a decades-long conflict over control of the Western Sahara between indigenous Sahrawis and Morocco. While the political, economic, and military dimensions of this conflict have been widely analyzed, the discursive means by which both the Moroccan state and Sahrawi activists have laid claim to the Sahara remain poorly understood despite the intense emotional attachments these claims have engendered on both sides of the conflict. In fact, in the weeks leading up to the Green March and in the years since, popular music has been a key field through which national attachments to the Sahara are asserted. Whether in the Moroccan band Jil Jilala’s 1975 classic “Laayoune Ainniya” or in the contemporary protest songs of Sahrawi activist and singer Mariem Hassan, artists and institutions continue to put forward competing claims about Saharan authenticity through music, melodies, instruments, and lyrics. Using archival press coverage of the Green March, as well as contemporary musical recordings, this paper demonstrates how popular music has been a key field of contestation in the struggle over Western Sahara. In doing so, it argues for a greater incorporation of music and musical sources into the history of the Middle East and North Africa
Art/Art History
Geographic Area
Sub Area