Sunday, May 21, 2017

Heads-Up: Compilations in the Pipeline

Two compilations of Somali music from the 1970s and 80s are about to be released:

1. Analog Africa is cooking up a tropical stew. I can't give details except this: I initially informally accepted to write the liner notes but, all of a sudden, AA disappeared from the radar. Only to reappear half a year later when I was disappearing under a pile of work. That's why I'm, alas, no longer involved in this beauty.

Analog Africa in Mogadishu from Analog Africa on Vimeo.

2. Ostinato Records: The compilation, a solid follow-up to Au Revoir, Mogadishu Vol.1, will be released this summer:

You can read more about the fascinating process here and below is the teaser:

A selection of lost sounds from a Somali archive. Travel with us to the Al Curuuba hotel in Mogadishu, the dusty streets of Hargeisa, and the shores of the Gulf of Tadjoura in Djibouti. A full compilation album, remastered and treated with the utmost love and care, is slated for release this year. Some of the songs in this mix made the final cut.

We hope you enjoy!

The package will contain a sizable booklet including an interview with me and other toothsome tidbits. I encourage visitors of this blog to get the LP/CD; I'm convinced your expectations will be served and possibly surpassed. It certainly makes me bright and breezy and even tugs at my heartstrings. I think, though,  that some/many guests here are logistically or otherwise impeded from acquiring it. I've, thus, decided to post the entire Q&A... in harmony with the interviewer, that is. The yellow texts, videos, audio clips and pictures are not in the liner notes. Hoping for critical and con/instructive feedback, specially from those who are well-versed in Somali music in general or the concerned period in particular.

Interview with Ostinato Records' Vik Sohonie

1. The Somali language belt stretches across the horn, into Djibouti. Djiboutian singers were luminaries in their own right, and I know people in Hargeisa listened to singers like Nimo Jama a great deal, but what about Mogadishu? Given colonial borders and the consequent reshaping of identity in the horn, was Mogadishu receptive to the Somali music coming out of Djibouti -- was it seen as part of the grander Somali music narrative, or was it seen as separate?

Nimco Jaamac and Cabdinuur Allaale were well-known in the cities, methinks. I only discovered other great Djiboutian artists after YouTube was created. Anyway, the official policy considered Somalis as one nation split by artificial borders, which they transgressed at leisure. The five-pointed white star in the middle of Somalia’s blue flag symbolizes the five parts into which Somalis were partitioned by the colonial powers. The last stanza of the national anthem deals with the irredentist aspirations of reconstituting the Greater Somalia. People/artists from the Missing Three - Djibouti, Ogaden in Ethiopia and Northern Frontier District in Kenya - were, thus, home in Somalia.
2. On the one hand, Siyaad Barre was known for his repression, and artforms did suffer, but at the same time a musical and cultural revolution as afoot. Can you talk about this seemingly contrasting situation? What kind of policies were in place that allowed art to thrive but also face repression?

The artists found a platform and work in mostly new cultural and educative facilities: Art/music academies, national and regional theatres & ensembles, schools, orientation centres etc. The creative minds were, in turn, instrumentalized to bestow high encomiums on the (alleged) achievements of the military regime. Those who had the chutzpah to defy The Blessed Revolution’s codes were mercilessly punished. As of early 1970s, agencies like Guddiga Faafreebka (Censorship Board), Nabad Sugidda Soomaaliyeed (National Security Service), Laanta Dembi Baarista (Criminal Investigation Department), Duub Cas (Red Berets) etc. were real busy. Their limits were stretched in their endeavor to silence dissidents. Quite a few artists have passed a (big) part of the dictatorship in prison while many more had to cross the borders in quest of a safe haven.

For example, critical poet-playwrights such as Cali Sugulle (link in Somali), Cabdulqaadir Xirsi “Yamyam”, Maxamed Ibraahin Warsame “Hadraawi, Cabdi Muxumed Amiin (link in Somali(in English) ... were arrested, sometimes fading away for years into solitary confinement. To the chagrin of the people for whom bards are much more valued than political or corporate bigwigs. In some cases, they’re charged with smuggling subversive material from the dungeons of heavily guarded quods and 'judged' again while already in jail for the same criminalized protest acts! Most probably a subterfuge to keep them silent eternally.

CMA composed and recorded this song ("How Often Did I Worry and Wonder Alone") in 1984 while recovering from injuries sustained in Ethiopia during an assassination attempt by agents of the dictatorship. Two of his fellow rebels didn't survive. The lyrics navigate the spaces between bitterness and optimism. With prophetic wisdom about, among other atrocities and miracles, artists seeking - and sometimes finding - safety in the high sees! How dangerous is the land they are fleeing?! Summary of the message: "The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm, but because of those who look at it without doing anything" -- Albert Einstein

The fate reserved for female artists was less bloodthirsty but dire and vindictive, as well. Legends like Xaliima Khaliif Cumar “Magool”, Khadiijo Cabdullaahi “Dalays”, Maryan Mursal, Saada Cali... were banned from performing and/or forced into exile. These songbirds were arguably more loved and respected than their male counterparts. This is perhaps why, as far as I know, they’re not imprisoned so as to avoid massive demonstrations.

Saada Cali in an underground 80s vid. doing a run-through of the flipside of the achievements.

3. What would a typical evening at the Jazira, Jubba, or Uruba hotel look like? What was the environment, energy, and audience like? Was it a small circle of affluent Somalis or were these live music venues largely democratic?

Al-Curuuba/Al-Uruba Hotel
The night clubs were insanely expensive, they’re rather supper clubs. EVERYTHING was costly: trendy attire, transport/taxi, tickets, beverages, snacks, life bands... Young night owls, mainly whopping wallets, elevated them into their privileged hunting grounds. To get in the common Gacaliso or Geelle, if lucky, had to lift with the Kardashians of the day. That, and the opposition from the conservative quarters, explains why the discotheques, though overflowing with come-hither qualities, were more often than not half-full.

Iftin at Al-Curuuba or The Hut nightclub (?)

The nightlife unfolded itself in hospitable establishments like cafés, cinemas, theatres, stadiums etc. Live music was an integral part of the menu, ofttimes including the latest hits of the kooxaha qoob-ka-ciyaarka (dance bands), live or as long intermezzos. The giant nightclub dragons could barely hold a candle to the entertainment and edification offered by the fagaaraha (open-air podium) or xarunta xaafadda (community centre) at an affordable price or even habitually free of charge, let alone rival with theatres or football stadia.

Nuts and bolts of neighbourhood nightlife: Small scale  parties, voluntary contribution, (live) music, full is full, quid pro quo

4. Most of the music that we feature is not traditional, but rather considered "entertainment music“. What was the reputation of this style for the older generation? Were they also broadcasting this on state radio?

Many/most mortals were indifferent to it as they’d other fish to fry. I don’t recall hearing it a lot on radio, either… unless the lyrics addressed socio-political issues such as education, women’s rights etc. The limited airplay could also be imputed to the real elephant in the room, i.e. the legendary suspicious nature of the authorities. There were phantasmagoric stories, allegedly spread by religious circles, about an occult society led by Jaalle Sheydaan Bullow (Comrade Dancing Devil) – an allusion to a play/title song (below) by Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir. Some accounts narrated scenes of radios – the sole members of the society - frenziedly trembling when dance music was on. The big enchilada, Siyaad Barre, supposedly took those urban legends seriously and became apprehensive of losing his marballs and power if more radios joined the partying Wireless Aliens Armada. Dr. Shrink's prescription? Cap the exposure! Done! Solved! Dang, the clergy’s legerdemain outsmarted their nemesis. You never know how a paranoid despot’s mind is wired!

On her way to the nightclub...
The usual stakeholders at OldFarts Ltd. and ElitistSnobs Inc. were vehemently pointing ailing fingers and wagging bald heads in disapproval of, in their monocled eyes, the damage this genre was inflicting upon susceptible hearts and souls. Their progeny belonged to blossoming floral expanses cheerfully shouting and wishfully lamenting that they needed more body parts to shake… in chorus!

5. Some of the bands we feature played at nightclubs and also produced soundtracks for theater plays: was it different audiences between the nightclubs and the theater? 

The nightclubs mainly served the happy few while theaters were accessible to all and sundry.

6. Where would you go see bigger state-sponsored Waaberi events and who would attend? How would you describe the difference of the Waaberi sound and the sound of the nightclub bands? 

Waaberi were a colossal centipede. They’re highly skilled in many art forms and played in Peoria everywhere in the country and abroad – theatres, stadiums, open podia, community centres and, to a lesser extent, nightclubs. On some days, they performed several gigs, in different towns, with different troupes. Concerning music, they’re very versatile mastering many genres – from traditional/modern/dance Somali to Western classical music and many in between. No wonder they’re so extremely protean and omnipresent as the behemoth, at times, had 300+ limbs: poets, playwrights, singers, songwriters, dancers, actors, instrumentalists... dozens of each category!

Waaberi Folklore Dance Troupe tells a story in dance. Unfortunately truncated, but at the end a Shareero track

7. Where would you get new music? Can you tell us more about the Shankarphone and Sharerophone shops. How did these private enterprises work under a socialist regime?

Fans generally copied the exorbitantly-priced and frequently (re-)released cassettes from those who’d afford to buy them in shops or at the market. The junta was actually all but socialist. The genuine leftists were brutally expunged shortly after the so-called Bloodless Revolution transpired. The survivors were among the founders of the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), the first armed opposition.

Siyaad Barre was a clever dictator who tailored any and all ideological mantles to his needs: From socialism, through many flavours of non-alignment, to capitalism... back and forth. In the 80s, while already on the ropes, he tactically loosened the grip on a few sectors including the music industry – the opium of the people. The Phones profited from that vicissitude of fortune. They possibly only existed for a couple/few years. The tectonic shifts caused by the civil war preceding and ensuing the fall of the government were such a permanent threat to life and limb that most businesses collapsed.

8. At TEDx Mogadishu, there was a rapturous reception when I spoke about Faadumo Qaasim, but even greater one for Hibo Nuura. They are both on our album -- who was the bigger star? Or were they loved equally in different ways (if they can be compared at all, that is)? 

 Hieroglyphical Xeer symbols
They’re both revered for soothing and soaring vocals, unparalleled theatre skills, down-to-earth character in real life. Faadumo Qaasim excelled in delivering emotional love ballads, unifying patriotic songs, seditious protest calls... Hibo Nuura is a champion for many, specially thanks to her songs and play roles illuminating the public about precious and endangered species in Somali culture. Such as the Xeer (customary law) which, for instance, enshrined the separation of law, religion and politics in the 7th century or earlier. That is more than 1000 years before John Locke and other Enlightenment thinkers published their writings leading to the Western concept of separation of church and state. Fancy that!

Maandeeq/Somalia has a lot more in store than the harsh & hackneyed neoplatonist realities and her chiming bells & roaring drums are yet to tell their own (hi)stories. Iskaa Wax U Qabso! (Do It For Yourself!).

Defect in the the stamp above repaired

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Khadra Daahir _ Jacayl Waa Gar (K7 1980s)

I've heard that Khadra Daahir is seriously ill but I couldn't get it confirmed. If that's the case, I wish her a speedy recovery and, in all cases, all the very best.

This is, by far, not KD's best tape but the others I have are so distorted that they sound quite Martian, musically and linguistically. Moreover, the lyrics on this one are very significant as they're all about love, mutual respect, tolerance...

This post is dedicated to all consenting adults whose love life is judged, misprised and even threatened by pontificating herds whose common sense is blinded by (outdated) traditions, religions, borders, materialism etc. Love is ALWAYS right!

1. Fagaaraha Kusoo Bood ("Jump Into the Public Square/Arena")

2. Mas'alo ("Conundrum")

3. Ayaamaha Toddobada ("The Seven Days")

4. Jacayl Waa Gar ("Love is Right")

5. Qalbi Gudhan Miyaa Qosol Lagu Godlaa ("A Dry Heart Cannot Be Milked/Wheedled")

6. Qosol Iyo Qufac ("Laughing and Coughing/Mockery") 7. Wayska Xaal Addduun ("Signs of the Times")

8. Awrkii Cirka ("The Southern Cross Constellation")

9. Afka Lagama Sheegto ("No Lip Service/Full Dedication [to Love]")


Another version of track 8 starts at 2:00

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Multimasted Grab for The Donald

This is the soundtrack of Damac Adduun ("Petty Worldly Greed"), a play by the '80s theater troupe Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir. It's fustigating all too familiar and destructive gaping shortcomings humanity has to endure on daily basis. How sad and ironic that an unconscionable, hubristic monster constituting a motherlode of characteristic deficits has just been put at the helm of the most powerful and influential country in the world. It's a long shot, but this petition, already signed by almost 4.5 million people, is one of the many efforts to resist.

The sound quality of the more than 30-years-old tape is deficient, but it’s all about the content. Use the track titles as a guideline.

1. Waa Wareey Waali ("What A Crazy News"); aka Wadnaha Waa Guree (The Heart Has Gone Dry)

2. Beenbeen Maad Wadataa Ballan Iigu Baajin Doontaa ("You’re Peddling Lies and Vainglorious Promises")

3. Hadal Aan Loo Jooginaad Weligaa Haanoodisaa ("Your Reservoirs Are Always Full of Injurious Drivel")

4. Damac Adduun ("Petty Worldly Greed")

5. Cudur Caafimaad Laheen
("A Disease Cannot Bring Health"); aka Cadceedda Soo Bixi Maysee ("The Sun Refuses to Rise")

6. Mugdi Habeen ("Dark Nights")

7. Nin Walboo Arrinkiisa La Soo Ag Dhigaa ("Every Man Is Accountable for His Actions")

8. Inkastoon Doqonoobey ("I Made a Fool of Myself") ; aka Damacaa I Dulee "(I’m Possessed by Greed"); aka Dardaaran ("Testament")

9. Warta Jannaad Waraawin Mayside ("You Won’t Drink From Heavenly Streams")

10. Ha Igu Raagine ("Won’t Last Long"); aka Waryaa Is Reebee ("Shame On You")


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Mogadishu Blues: A Celebration of Somali Music and Poetry (concerts)

I got the blues!
"It has been a dream in the making but we are proud to introduce you to Mogadishu Blues: a tribute concert in honor of Somali music from the 70’s and 80’s.

The Breathing ensemble led by Orville Breeveld together with four renowned Somali musicians will take you back the golden era of Somali music. It will be a trip down memory lane in which we will reminisce & relive the heydays of Somalia’s best days.

Come & celebrate beautiful Somali music and culture like never before, and make sure to bring your whole family to experience this amazing tribute. It will be a show like you have never seen before!

The kick-off of Mogadishu Blues will be during the National Theater Weekend in the Hague (Saturday 16 January 2016). The Second show will take place on Saturday 30 January 2016 at Theater Meervaart in Amsterdam.

For ticket sales go to the website of Nieuwe Kerk and Meervaart
For questions and inquiries:"


Yes, I got the blues...Everyday!

Noora Noor_Forget What I Said

A Hodgepodge of Somali traditional dances in 5 minutes:

Thursday, August 13, 2015

 Heads Up

Two compilations of Somali music from the 1970s and 80s:

1. Au Revoir, Mogadishu Vol.1: This 90-minute cassette has just been released by the German label ÇAYKH Recordings. You can buy the tape here.

2. Light & Sound of Mogadishu will be released on 29 August on LP and CD by the Helsinki-based label Afro7.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Faadumo Qaasim - Dhabta I Saar (K7, 1974)

Faadumo Qaasim sadly passed away in 2011 after a glorious, socially engaged artistic career spanning five decades. RIP! This tape was reissued in 1992 with 2 additional songs, namely track 5 and 10.

01. Qays & Layla ("Romeo & Juliet")

02. Dalka Nuuriyow ("The Light of the Land")

03. Maalin Walbaan Kuu Marqaamaye ("I'm Permanently Intoxicated With You")

04. Qaanso Roobaad ("Rainbow")

05. Dalkeygow! (Oh My Land!)*

10 Adeeg Yaa Noogu Diraa? ("Who To Send On An Errand (To Reunite Me with My Exiled Lover]?")*


* See this post for the context and a partial translation of track 5

Friday, December 26, 2014

Durdur - Raxmaddii Rabbi Baa Lagu Raaxaystaa (k7)

This is the soundtrack of a tragicomedy of the same name. Sometime in the '80s we're partying at Taleex hotel in Mogadishu. When this record started, almost everybody jumped up to dance the new rage kabxadro, a merge of the traditional butt-wiggling dance/music genre kabeebey and psychedelic Sufi mystical dance xadro. Unable to resist the stompy frenzy, the floor decided to join the merriment and ... collapsed! - coincidentally, track 4 is also known as Gariiree ("I'm Quaking"). Miraculously, no one was badly injured! Anybody who was there, please get in touch.

The rather offbeat title of this album translates to "We Enjoy/Dance to God's Grace" and all the 9 tracks are glorifying or lamenting many shades of un/requited... secular love. If the warlords, from al-shabaab to the CIA et al, possessed half the senses and wits that sinking floor had, they'd shake their fat asses and fucked up brains to any beats of their choice. In which happy case they'd, at worst, only break their bricks and bones... and most definitely get much closer to whatever (transcendental) El Dorado they're seeking than they ever will through the barrels of their weapons, from simple rifles to high-tech drones. Fingers crossed!

Happy, healthy and peaceful 2015!


01 Nin Walboo Abaalkiis ("Every Man Gets His Due / Every Dog Has His Day")

02 Ilasoo Dheeshidaa ("Dance With Me")
04 Gibilkeyga Gaddoomayee ("My Complexion Has Transformed")

PS. For the first time in 20 years, Durdur have recently performed a series of concerts all across Minneapolis, with the finale at the world-class Cedar Cultural Center. As far as I can see, none of the original instrumentalists was there and that's why the music sounds a bit different. Nevertheless, according to messages and vids online, "they brought down the house". Congratulations!