In a sprawling tent city rising out of the desert’s vastness, a group of refugee musicians – brought together by spirit and circumstance – are finding solace in song
In Mauritania, just a few miles away from the ongoing war in Mali, the huge Mbera camp hosts some 62,000 refugees. Here, families put up with the merciless desert heat in exchange for a degree of security. But despite the harsh conditions, something extraordinary is happening here.
Thanks to a group of Tuareg and Arab musicians, a musical scene has sprung up. They play traditional instruments, violas, tambours, modern guitars and self-built gear, making the most of the spare parts and the few resources that lie around. They sing about their land, about revolution, love, nostalgia, life and death.
Intersos, a humanitarian aid association, asked the Italian music producer Khalab to travel to Mbera to listen to, record and document their music. And to make known to the world this unique sound of hope.
M’berra, an album by Khalab and musicians from Mbera, is out now on Real World Records
In pictures: Making music in Mbera refugee camp
Images by Jean-Marc Caimi and Valentina Piccinni