The group Leyoad was founded to present the two disc which have been recorded in the refugee camps: A pesar de las heridas and Sáhara, tierra mía . The first european tour started in summer 1998. It was the summer when the referendum seemed so near within reach that one were thinking to suspend the tour. Four years later the situation remains the same, let´s say even more difficult. In spite of this the saharaui musicians continue not only protecting their culture but also modernizing the traditional music, the haul, without losing not in the least their roots. And due to such fundamental figures like Mariem Hassan and Nayim Alal, Leyoad and the actual saharaui music gained a solid place in the music scene.
The women are the pillars of the life in the refugee camps. They settle the tent matters, taking care for the children´s education and the development of all social aspects. In fact, the women are humanizing a wasteland for a dignified survival since 26 year in exile.
All that is transmitted in the songs of Leyoad, such as the old once of medej , religious songs in classical Arab, talking about God, the prophet and above all, restless spiritual songs full of search for the humanity. The saharaui resort to this old religious songs is a form of self-protection and that´s why Baba Salama, guitarist with a deep knowledge of the haul, composes new songs within the traditional rules of medej. Followed by Mariem Hassan, composer of the memorable Song of the Intifada, with songs like Sahara neb gija, talking about indomitable people, and Yasar geidu , a song full of life and hope. In Mariem everything is pure grace: her harmonious unfolding on stage, her delicate and natural dancing and her marvellous voice.
And together with her as well the other women, each with her merit, Shueta, the most applied to sing for marriages and traditional celebrations; Bouba, enchanting and perfect in singing and dancing; Maga, great dancer with a solid domination of the t´bal between the percussionists as well like Tarba, Fatata and Ferraha.
Within the traditional groups men occupy a second role, playing guitar, which took the place of the tidinit and singing, equally considerable as Baba Salama, composer and guitarist, Feku, guitarist also; the singer Jalihenna, pupil of the unforgetable Mahfud Alien, and Hababa, the restless creator, and in front of all, Nayim Alal, the poet.
They built up their tents in the surroundings of the holy city Smara, in the valley of Saguin el Hamra, next to the river Tasua. The family lived of their herd of camels and goats. There, in the year ´58, Mariem Hassan came into the world, the third of ten brothers and sisters.
They weren't a family of igawen (griots), though the music was an important part of their family life. Her father had a good voice but the artistic gift came from her mothers' side. Her aunt Zaina was quite known as a singer and dancer, her uncle Bushad as a poet and her mother used to sing on birthday celebrations, weddings, in Ramadan or simply if a friend they hadn't seen for a long time came to visit them. Among her brothers there is Boika Hassan, a good guitar player and Mohamed Salem, a poet.
Already very young, when the Sahara still belonged to Spain, Mariem used to sing in small private parties and participated in the clandestine meetings, where the saharaui people rendered their musical culture. It seemed a very natural thing to do. Although two of her brothers were in the Spanish army, the family and their surroundings were longing for the independence of their country, like all the former African colonies did in these years.
Mariem was 17 years old when the "Marcha Verde" (Green March) took place. Her two brothers who were in the army had cars and so were able to bring the family to the enclave of Mjeriz, next to Tifariti, first stage of the exodus. From there they proceeded via Argelia to a place in the inhospitable Hamada. Their camp is known as Smara, in remembrance of the town the biggest part of its inhabitants had to leave behind.
Mariem Hassan has lived there for 26 years. This is the place where her five children were born. Today she lives with her husband and children in Barcelona.
The four big camps are named after the four wilayas - provinces - of the western Sahara - Smara, El Aaiun, Auserd and Dajla - and organized in the same way. Each wilaya is divided in dairas - districts - and those are divided in quarters. In each of these localities a group of musicians takes charge of maintaining the traditional culture.
The "Frente Polisario" realized the necessity of having a permanent group of musicians with clear political ideas that could help with the international promotion of their concerns. Those were the years when Spain had numerous politic songwriters, the "Nueva Trova Cubana" had her best moments and people still were listening to the songs of Victor Jara and Quilapayún.
That's how the group "El Hafed" came into life, later - after the founder and first secretary of the "Frente Poliario" had fallen - named "Martir el Uali Mustafa Sayed", better known as "El Uali".
Mariem immediately became part of the group and travelled with them to various countries to take part in cultural events of a high political impact that during the war with Morocco often were boycotted by Moroccan activists and functionaries.
"El Uali" recorded four or five albums in different countries, always with the help of the solidarity committee concerned. Among these albums "Polisario Vencerá" stands out, which was produced by Mohamed Tami, Saharaui Minister of Education from the late 70s to the mid 80s. Originally, it was published by Guimbarda in 1982, then again in 1998 by Nubenegra. Mariem Hassan like many of the other women that participated in "El Uali" took part in recordings or tours whenever she was able to, i.e., if she was not pregnant or had to care for her children. She is on the album that was recorded in Holland in 1980, but which never was published, and on the one that was published in France in 1989 but didn´t get far either, because the tour that was being prepared to substitute the launching of the album had to be suspended.
Therefore it wasn't until 1998 when we finally could enjoy Mariem's voice in some songs of the album A pesar de las heridas. Among these the Canción de la Intifada stands out and since then has been one of the most impressive songs on the tours of the group Leyoad. After four years of intense work with Nubenegra, Leyoad has grown strong thanks to two of the most important persons in Saharaui music who always stayed with the group, Mariem Hassan herself and Nayim Alal.
Lately Mariem Hassan has focused more on writing music. By summer 2000 Nubenegra proposed Leyoad to record an new album and Mariem contributed beautiful songs like Sahara neb gija or Yasar geidu.
Mariem Hassan has started a solo career which began with the album Mariem Hassan con Leyoad. With the actual quartet she is apt to recreate the whole universe of the haul . In the intimacy of her small group her figure is growing immensely large and leaves us speechless with the intensity of her voice.
The critics unanimously recognized her as the best voice of the western Sahara - a fact which Mariem Hassan will proof once again with the launching of her new album Medej in May 2004.