q Festival - Sandblast
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The Sandblast Festival launched at Rich Mix on November 4th, 2007 and lasted over three full days.

The opening night was compered by Henry Bonsu from Colorful Radio and attended by special guests from the UK such as iconic filmmaker Ken Loach and international guest such as the Algerian Olympic gold medalist Hassiba Boulmerka.

The opening night also featured the fabulous voices of Somalian singer Maryam Mursal, herself a political refugee and Pedro Lima and Teresa Pineschi from Brazil.
Opening Night: Henry Bonsu with Sandblast founder
Hassiba Boulmerka, Algerian Olympic medalist
Danielle Smith with filmmaker Ken Loach
"I felt my eyes were opened not only to a great injustice, but also to the art and culture of a people who have been sidelined for far too long."
– Henry Bonsu, Director of Colourful Radio
Eighteen Saharawi artists from the refugee camps participated in the three-day festival. Tiris, the sensational seven-member music and dance band, brought the house down. The festival represented only one leg of their six-city tour in the UK. The multi-media event included Saharawi poets, painters, photographers, puppeteers, interacting with audiences and collaborating creatively with participating London-based and international artists.
Over the weekend, intimate jams took place with Yazid Fentazi (oud), Luzmira Zerpa (singer and cuatro player), Liz Ogle (violinist) and Sona Jobarteh (kora) and others. Alongside that, there was pulsating dance madness between amateurs and professionals of diverse traditions.
Feature films, shorts, works in progress offered multiple insights into the Saharawi situation as did talks on human rights, landmines and women, including a special event with Saharawi human rights defender and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Aminatou Haidar, who spoke about the systematic abuses of Saharawis living under the Moroccan occupation in Western Sahara.
Aminatou Haidar at opening night with Malainin Lekhal and at the Parliament in a human rights session
"I'm sure the Sandblast Festival will have given many people an appetite for the Western Sahara."
– Toby Shelley, FT journalist and author of "Endgame in Western Sahara: Africa’s last colony."
There were also creative workshops for adults and kids. Debut performances of The Wall, a British-Saharawi theatre collaboration, were also among the highlights. Through the remarkablelife of El-Keihal, a Saharawi poet, The Wall tells the story of a divided and displaced nation in struggle.
Tiris: traditional dance on tubuul (kettle drums) and tidinit
Momo Hafsi & Telo Morgado with Tiris tidinit player Moahemd Salek
Toy Making Workshop
Tiris band members with British actors in The Wall
Scene from The Wall
Scene of Tiris in The Wall
"To take part in Sandblast is to share in the making of history."
– Jean Lamore, filmmaker and author

The three-day festival attracted over 2,500 people. Through related events in London and the UK Tiris tour, we reached an additional 4,000 people.

The 2007 Festival unequivocally affirmed the power of the arts to engage audiences widely and to open hearts and minds across the board to build bridges and new friendships. Hundreds of people learnt of the Saharawis for the first time and many considered the Sandblast festival the best awareness-raising party they had ever attended.



The release of Tiris' debut album Sandtracks was met with a rave five-star review in leading world music magazine Songlines. During their month long UK visit, Tiris performed at Southbank Centre in London, Brighton Dome, Musicport Festival in Whitby, Salisbury Cultural Centre and Leeds Music Hall and in Wales in addition of headlining the Sandblast festival at Rich Mix.
Sandblast director Danielle and female members of Tiris (Embarca, Boba, Swelma and Shueta) with BBC Four music radio presenter at the Musicport festival.
Shueta singing at Musicport
Swelma on Tabl and Shueta singing at Salisbury Cultural center
Mufeed singing at Southbank


Back in 2007, the camp-based Tiris band featured two lead singers Mufeed and Shueta (known locally as the Aretha Franklin of the Sahara). They were accompanied by Mohamed Zein on electric guitar, Bepa on keyboard and Mohamed Salek on the traditional four-stringed tidinit and the singer dancers Boba, Embarca and Swelma. Their debut album, "Sandtracks "was selected "Top of the World" Album in 2007 and received a 5-star review in Songlines.

"Tiris has it all: clear soulful vocals, understated but perfectly placed piano parts, rasping stringed instruments and those throaty guitar lines which warble and speak, summing up the sound of the desert."

– Rose Skelton, Songlines

"If they weren't stranded in the refugee camps in SW Algeria, Tiris would surely be one of the success stories of North Africa."

– Robin Denselow, a renowned war correspondent and world music critic, who gave Sandtracks a 4-star review in The Guardian.
Listen to Sandtracks
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Registered Charity (England and Wales) :1115288 | Companies House Registration number : 05397223
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