Desert Blues

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Malouma Mint El Meidah (Arabic: المعلومة منت الميداح‎, also simply Maalouma or Malouma ( ); born October 1, 1960) is a Mauritanian singer, songwriter and politician. Raised in the south-west of the country by parents versed in traditional Mauritanian music, she first performed when she was twelve, soon featuring in solo concerts. Her first song “Habibi Habeytou” harshly criticized the way in which women were treated by their husbands. Though an immediate success, it caused an outcry from the traditional ruling classes. After being forced into marriage while still a teenager, Malouma had to give up singing until 1986. She developed her own style combining traditional music with blues, jazz, and electro. Appearing on television with songs addressing highly controversial topics such as conjugal life, poverty and inequality, she was censored in Mauritania in the early 1990s but began to perform abroad by the end of the decade. After the ban was finally lifted, she relaunched her singing and recording career, gaining popularity, particularly among the younger generation. Her fourth album, Knou (2014), includes lyrics expressing her views on human rights and women’s place in society.
Alongside her singing, Malouma has also fought to safeguard her country’s music, urging the government to create a music school, forming her own foundation in support of musical heritage, and in 2014 creating her own music festival. She has also been active in politics since the 1990s, when she began to campaign for more democracy. She was elected a senator in 2007, the first politician in her caste, but was arrested the following year after a coup d’état. When elections were again held in 2009, she became a senator for the opposition Ech-Choura party where she was given special responsibilities for the environment. This led in 2011 to her appointment as the IUCN’s Goodwill Ambassador for Central and West Africa. In December 2014, she announced she was moving from the opposition to join the ruling party, the Union for the Republic, where she felt she could be more effective in contributing to the country’s progress. Her work has been recognized by the French, who decorated her as a Knight of the Legion of Honor, and the Americans, whose ambassador to Mauritania named her a Mauritanian Woman of Courage.


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