Friday, November 29, 2013

Waaberi Hargeysa Compilation



Founded in 1954, the theatre troupe Walaalaha Hargeysa (Siblings of Hargeysa) was nationalized and renamed Waaberi Hargeysa (Hargeysa's Dawn) following the military putsch in 1969. They were based in Hargeysa, the 2nd largest city in Somalia and currently the capital of the secessionist Somaliland. They're somewhat obscured by their Mogadishan namesakes/twins that had at their disposition hundreds of artists and, thus, a massive repertoire. Nevertheless, WH had to their credit scores of plays and were widely popular all over Somalia and in the neighbouring countries. All the songs here belong to plays from the '70s and '80s performed live mainly by deeply loved, highly respected, widely venerated... female vocalists and actresses.

In this day and age, Somali women's rights are regularly violated by tribal and religious socio-psychopath(et)ic warlords and ordinary criminal thugs. In this light or glaring obscurity, I'd like to salute Aman Radio, the first all-female radio station in Mogadishu which celebrated its first anniversary on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Ladies and... ladies, congratulations for this pressing and heroine-ic initiative and many happy returns!

1.Hablaha Soomaaliyeed ("Somali Girls [Freedom of Choice]")

2. Adkeysan Waayoo ("Can't Stand [Injustice to Women]")

3. Gari Makaa Baxdaa? ("Do you Serve Justice?")

4. Waan Ku Haybinayoo ("I've Been Looking for You")

5. Soo Dhowoow ("Welcome")

6. Markaan Da'da Jirey 15 ("When I Was 15 [ I Had Dreams]")

7. Gudcuraan Caddoba Jirin ("Dark Ages")

8. Cagta Saar Waddada ("Hit the Road")

9. Kaalay Adhaxda Igu Qaad ("Come and Carry Me on Your Back")

10. Heri Maahee Hana Haabaa [A Traditional Love Dance]

11. Ha Saydhin Wacadka ("Don't Disavow the Commitment [Tradition To Cherish Your Better Half]")


12. Masiibadu Adduunyada Iyadaa U Macallin Ah ("Calamities Teach The World Lessons")


The compil is downloadable here. Most of my WH tapes are no longer listenable but I've about a dozen other tracks of which the sound quality is comparable to this batch. I may upload them sometime in the future. Leave a comment or pm me if it takes too long and you'd like to get them.

This is a full WH-play. As an integral part of the play, the songs are scattered throughout the video - at 11:55, 19:10 etc.




Update: Part 2 (17 tracks)

1. Dardaaran ("Testament")


2 Intaad Nabad Doonto ("Seek and Wage Peace")


3 Sir Ma Qabe ("Honest and Frank")


4 Xaawo iyo Aadan ("Eva & Adam")


5 Calaf Lama Dago ("Destiny/Complementarity Can Not Be Deceived/Betrayed")

6. Dahab Weeye Gabadhuye ("Girls Are Golden")

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Waaberi Hargeysa

Following comments and mailed requests, I'm trying to make a compilation of Waaberi Hargeysa (1969-1990). In the meantime, a couple of their vids:












Tuesday, September 3, 2013

New Band: Iska Dhaaf

A friend mailed me the other day a link to a familiarly named band of which I haven't heard before. Iska Dhaaf (which means in Somali so much as let it go, stop it, forget it, don't bother, so what! ...) is a new American band recently formed in Seattle. From their site:

Inspired by Sufi poetry, limitation, and an obsessive preoccupation with writing, Nathan Quiroga and Benjamin Verdoes have fused their seemingly disparate musical and personal backgrounds into something searching and honest. Their songs, with heavy rhythms and cutting melodic hooks, are at once infectious and sweetly disarming

Wondering why they chose a name from the hell in paradise, I found  this artcle :

Tonally, the group borrow vintage African rock tones and scales, especially the lo-fi warbly guitar sounds that resurfaced with the recent re-release of Dur-Dur Band’s Somali funk-rock. It makes sense—Verdoes has spent a long while now learning the Somali language, and the cultural fascination seems to be leaking into Quiroga’s excellent guitar work...What’s interesting about the band is how subtly the African influence is blended with surf and punk...

This explanation immediately hurled me back to memories of outfits from the 70s and 80s which blended Somali folk with funk, rock, punk and surf guitar. Specially Onkod and Danan razed the roof with that otherworldy sound. The sad reality is that I can't find any of their albums; neither in my or my friends' collections nor online. I'd be grateful to anybody who can tip us off to their hiding places.


Iska Dhaaf's debut efforts are easy to find and they're imo quite magnificent. Or, as we say in Somali, waa lama dhaafaan (not to be missed)!



Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Interview About Somali Music


The Economist interviewed me a few months ago about Somali music. I've recently received a mail from the interviewer to the effect that the article would possibly be published soon, albeit "cut down considerably to 500 words". The full interview would cover almost all the inquiries I regularly receive from other interested parties as well - 13 in the last couple of months alone. I can no longer hold off replying to (repeated) requests on the premise and promise that an extensive interview is in the pipeline. All the more that the article/heavily edited interview, if ever published, may ironically raise more questions than it would answer. This is why I'm posting it here verbatim.


1) How would you characterize Somalia's music of the 1970s/1980s? To what extent did it reflect life in Somalia at that time? For example, were businesses thriving and the general mood optimistic? Or did some of the more *funky* tunes serve as a sort of escapism?


It's arguably the most innovative period in the history of Somali music. This was a very ambivalent era, relatively booming economically and extremely repressive politically...The creative minds captured the zeitgeist by generating as much exhilarating entertainment as emotive and engaged music (inciting the people to support or protest against the regime). They were consistently innovative without abandoning their roots.

2) Who were the most prominent artists of that time?

Countless highly valued singer-songwriters formed the backbone and it's impossible for me to choose 10, 50 or even 100... Concerning bands and in no particular order: Horseed, Lix iyo Labaatanka Juun, Waaberi Muqdisho, Waaberi Hargeysa, Shareero, Iftin, Durdur, Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir, Halgan, Danan, Heegan, Xusuus, Onkod, Horyaal...

3) Do you have a sense for their musical background? For example, were musicians largely self-taught? Did they study more formally? Or in some countries, musicians got their training as part of military bands? Was there a common way for artists to learn their craft in Somalia?


The overwhelming majority of the artists were autodidacts. They learned their craft on the ground by experimenting with their (inherited) talent and/or passion. The most skilled or connected ones joined existing bands. A labyrinth of others were not that lucky, but occasionally employed session combos and joints to get their material produced.

There were a couple of music academies belonging to the armed and police forces. In Somali context, however, a concept like "music school" would be taunted as a contradictio in terminis. The prevailing view was/is that you don't learn music formally, you have it in your body, mind and soul ... or not. Art in general and particularly music were hardly considered as a profession and it's almost impossible to live from music. The tapes were ridiculously expensive and people just turned into self- helping boombox copying. Practically every artist had, thus, a day job and music was not more than a glorified but cherished hobby...

4) What was the driving influence for artists during this period?


The main influence came from within. Somalia has numerous centuries-old poetry and dance genres which can always be sung, with or without instruments. In the '30s through to the '50s, a gradually growing number of artists started playing the rhythms, melodies and harmonies inherent to local genres on oud, violin, accordion and other foreign instruments. In the process, they created new Somali genres like balwo and heello which later flirted and cross-pollinated with music from neighbouring countries.

The generation from late '50s to late '80s owes a lot to their predecessors. They pursued the modernisation by delving deeper into local genres and stretching the inspiration to beyond the neighbourhood. Traditional instruments such as nasaro (high ritual drum), madhuube (thumb piano), fuugwo (trumpet) shareero (lute), muufe (horn) seese (one-chord violin) etc. welcomed or were replaced by guitar, sax, keyboard, drum set...and that's when Somali folk music seriously passed from flirting with to getting married to non-Somali genres - from maqam and taarab, through jazz and funk to afrobeat and reggae...

Due to the blogosphere, Iftin and Durdur are nowadays characterised as funk bands. However, just like their contemporaries, they were very versatile with a repertoire overarching and infusing many Somali and foreign genres. By the way, some ancient
Somali genres are modally pretty much similar to their modern universal cousins. So much so that some people believe that Somalia's kabeebey, dhaanto, niiko etc. may have influenced R&B, reggae, punk... and not the other way round.

5) How did these influences reach Somalia's shores (eg, radio, imported cassettes, artists traveling abroad, etc.)?

Mainly through imported k7s and "diasporan" Somalis, including musicians, coming back home. Local radios and theatres were very influential, but they were exclusively broadcasting local music. The foreign languages section of Radio Mogadishu, for example, was very limited in scope to imprint a notable effect.

6) Where did people go to enjoy music most often? Were they listening to music mostly in clubs, weddings, social gatherings,taxis, etc.?

All the above and everywhere else: from homes and streets which were lit more often by music than by electricity to theatres, open-air podia, cinemas and sport halls where plays, concerts, musicals were staged/shown on daily basis...

7) To what extent does the music of that period live on today within the Diaspora community? And how would you compare Somali music of the 1970s/1980s with more contemporary music today?

(a) Most of what was recorded before the civil strife has, unfortunately, perished. The surviving records are often in bad shape sonically. Nevertheless, they're alive and kicking in so far as people, young and old, local and diasporan can lay hands on them.

(b) A commonality is that both groups do their own thing by using what is available to serve their specific audience. Artists from the 1960s to 1980s had the necessary qualities as well as public/official support to build upon vast fountains of classical poets/songwriters, work songs, genres, traditional instruments, rhythms, melodies... They did that with flair, verve and panache and generated masterpieces.

Today's Somali music is dominated by auto-tuning electropop, often consisting of solo/duo musicians suffering from lazy ignorance of the past and greed for quick success in the present or future. Score a catchy hook and you're in, seems to be the motto! In my opinion, we're often dealing with minimalism plagued by scanty musicianship and shallow creativity. To be fair, we'd also acknowledge that contemporary artists had to bite the bullet, sometimes literally, and were obliged to face the daunting task of creating their art from scratch. The aforementioned rich sources have been severely damaged or even annihilated by the civil war. The post-war artists barely have access to yesteryear's heritage and some may even be unaware it ever existed...

The old school aficionados generally frown upon the current scene, but the youngsters who constitute the target audience are in love with it and that is a major achievement. There is also a noteworthy vibrant mini-revival spearheaded by outfits such as Qaylodhaan, Aar Maanta, Sahra Halgan, Waayaha cusub, Waaberi Puntland, Goodir, Kooxda Sosca, Shego Band, Walinja... as well as “foreigners” like Saba and Tanya Norwegian whose take on Somali music is highly respected. They've the potential of leaving an indelible mark on Somali music. Maybe not (yet) in the same calibre as their predecessors musically, but they're avidly absorbing the old legacies and a part of their lyricism is already reminiscent of former masters.


PS. For the Brazilian commenter who is interested in Somalis singing in English:









PPS. An article partially based on this interview is published by OkayAfrica.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

LMB Compilation




A few guests mailed a request for more music by the theater troupe Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir (Banaadir Entertainment Lions). I've some of their tapes but the sound quality of most of the 25- to 35-year-old songs is, unfortunately, no longer apt for human consumption. LMB has as much traditional as modern repertoire and it's a real pity almost all the traditional acoustic tracks are on a silence strike. Understandable as they, apparently, got fed up with being constantly listened to. Who knows, they may have decided to turn the tables on the inter-galactic spies by eavesdropping on the unconscionable universal tappers.

I uploaded a number of tracks which are still listenable. Keep in mind that all Somali drama soundtracks are performed live during or right before/after a related act of the plays. Moreover, I've never seen an original Somali play score from that period. The overwhelming majority of the k7s, if not all, are thus the umpteenth copy of somewhat edited bootlegs.

A quick search online delivered hardly any worthwhile info. and I don't have enough time to scrutinize the songs or delve deep into my memory. Time and tide allowing, I'll try to write a few illustrative observations on the songs and the plays they belong to in the (near) future. For the time being, let me say this: LMB's plays and songs are often heavily pregnant with social messages. In the relatively peaceful '70s and '80s, Somalia sheltered about a million refugees from Ethiopia and Eritrea. I gather LMB frequently performed in refugee camps free of charge. Today marks the World Refugee Day. We can all get involved to make a difference , however tiny. Little drops of water make a mighty ocean, indeed!

1. Shinbir Nabadeed ("Peace Dove")
2. Maangaab Maalqabe Maskaxley Maryooley ("An Ignorant Wealthy Man [Rejected By] An Intelligent Poor Woman")

3. Sheydaan Bullow/Barbaarta iyo Bilcanta Barakaca ("Dancing Devil/Shake It Guys and Girls")

4. Salaaman ("Peace!")

5. Maxaa Gacalkii Kala Geeyey? ("Why Have Beloved Ones Been Torn Apart?")
6. Haley Soo Gaaro Gargaarka Degdegga ("Dispatch The Emergency Services")

7. Qalbigaa I karkaree ("My Heart Is On Fire")
8. Ii Gargaar Geesiyoow ("Brave Man Come To My Rescue")
9. Samawade Sariig Samaan ("A Good-Natured Peace Lover")
10. Nasiib ("Luck")

You can download the 17 tracks here

PS. Following a comment, Aweys Khamiis (shareero player/singer on tracks 4, 7 and 8 in this post) and Madiino Cabdi Cali (songstress on tracks 7 and 8 above) - from 2:10:

PPS. After the outbreak of the all-out civil war, many of LMB's artists had to flee to the four corners of the globe. This is a full googoos (variety show/music hall) from early '90s featuring some of LMB's artists and material. Extract: Qalbigaa I Karkaree (track 7 above):

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

R.I.P. Shiikh Cabdi (Iftin's Guitarist)

Cabdi Cabdullaahi Maxamed ("Shiikh Cabdi") sadly passed away a few weeks ago in Denmark, where he's been ill for sometime. He started his career with the band Nalkad in Mogadishu in 1973. After a short stint with Bakaaka in Kismaayo, a port city in the South of Somalia, he joined Iftin in 1977 and played on many of their albums till the onset of the civil war in 1991. With the death of Shiikh Cabdi, Somali music has lost a self-taught, talented, versatile, innovative and intuitive guitarist and a warm, engaging and friendly personality. A.U.N../R.I.P.!


 I've quite a few Iftin tapes on which Shiikh Cabdi has played lead but the sound quality has, unfortunately, disintegrated. Here is a compilation of tracks which have slightly or reasonably defied the warped static teeth and the wrath of the times.

1. Xuduud Ma leh Xubigaan

2. Wacad Beena Ma Roonee
3. Hab Isii 

 4. Cantar iyo Ceebla

5.  Naf Jacayl Haleelay 
6.  Ma Hurdee Habeenkii
7. Ul iyo Diirkeed

8. Xubi Xoog Magalee

9. Dalxiis

10. Xariir

The tracks above and the rest of the 23 tracks can be downnloaded here.


 


PS. I've just added the two live tracks below. They are only individually downloadable.

 Daaadba Daadkii Ka Ween Waa La Duulaa (Live)

 Shukri I Shumi Shooblow Ka Shiix (Live)





 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Peace!

I'm delighted that attempts are being made to restore peace in Mali. The Dutch musician Laurens Joensen has embarked on a fantastic journey to support Malian musicians through benefit concerts, collecting guitars and other instruments which will be donated to the artists and a documentary featuring Malian musicians. The crowdfunded documentary is called Music for Mali and you can contribute here.



For background info. about the conflict in Mali and how culture and specially music(ians) have been affected, Freemuse has just published an extensive report written by Andy Morgan. The 64-page report can be downloaded here.



Speaking of peace, a couple of friends have recently returned to Somalia where the saints of doom are being dompted. The track below is for them as well as for anyone anywhere who is in a similar precarious situation.

Kooxda Halgan_Badbaado Guri Hooyo (1978) ("Safe Home")
And this one is whole-midfing-heartedly dedicated to the warlords in Somalia and everywhere else:

Horseed_Gabbalaa Iisoo Garguurtee (197x) ("Sunset Is Crawling To Me")

Update: The project is fully crowd-funded. A lot of guitars and amplifiers are collected and will soon be shipped to Mali where the making of the documentary will start. An impression:


impression Music for Mali 'repairday' at MuzyQ from Murk-Jaep van der Schaaf on Vimeo.


Festivals in the Netherlands paid a special attention to Malian music and collected instruments, e.g. Festival Muziek op de Dommel in Eindhoven:


You can follow how the project is progressing on Facebook or via the newsletter



Update 2: Check also Sahel Calling, "an interactive, musical project to raise awareness about the refugees, internally-displaced persons and the people living in the conflict-affected areas of Mali and the Sahel".