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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Strategy of Style: Music, Struggle, and the Aesthetics of Sahrawi Nationalism in Exile


The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), as a contested post-colonial state built entirely in exile, has forged a national identity based on collectivist notions of political struggle, cultural expression, and resistance. Throughout the past four decades, the Saharawi music scene–and its carefully crafted music styles–have been particularly important to advocate for this vision, both locally and internationally. Through a musico-historical analysis of some of the most influential Saharawi musical productions that have been released since the 1980s, and conversations with influential Saharawi cultural actors, this article engages the dialectics of nationalism and exile in Saharawi music. We argue that the flourishing of a unique Saharawi musical style during the exodus and the war, the nidal, and its more recent developments after the ceasefire in 1991, has been instrumental for the creation of a strong international Saharawi discourse that has proved to be, at times, more influential than any political speech.

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