Archive for the ‘Somalia’ Category

Over a quarter century ago New York gave the world Hip Hop. During that time the music, expression, and beats have evolved impacting and planting lyrical seeds in kids from every nation. Look out, especially to Africa, and you’ll see a hip hop movement fully grown.

K’Naan is one of those artists from the Hip Hop generation. Growing up on the dusty streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, even from an early age he was listening and dropping verses from Nas and Rakim. His is an authentic voice forged by civil war and refugee experiences and strongly influenced by Somali culture and family history.

K’Naan’s music excites me because it offers a different vision beyond himself; it’s socially aware and uniting people under tight beats while raising awareness for those without voices. Very few artists can do this, but K’Naan speaks to me like Jurassic 5, Guru, or even Rage.

He takes Hip Hop and presses the bounds mixing English and Somali; he’s a poet in any language. Catch K’Naan on closing night of the Pan African Festival at the First Ave Main Room.

Monday, August 11
First Avenue Main Room
7 PM (Doors open)
18+ show
$16 advance; $20 at the door
Ticket Info: 612-338-8388 or Ticketmaster

K’Naan – Soobax

K’Naan – Hardcore


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Abdi Nassir recently covered the state of Somali music and its perceived decline in his blog Abdi Nassir Somalia:

“If you explore a little bit about the Somali Music Industry, your eyes might see a man or a woman who calls himself or herself a Hobol (singer) copying the old Somali songs in 1960s and 1970s and making it into an album. This prompts me to think, is Somali Music dying or these s0-called Hobols are polluting the sweetness of the Somali Music with their lack of creativity?

These amateur singers, also known in Somali Language as Wejiyaxun (Bad Faces), are everywhere, especially in Somali wedding ceremonies where they are hired to play. Most of the songs they play are copied from old Somali singers and you rarely see new songs they make, except them pounding their noisy and heavy instruments. I don’t mean to discredit them but copyright infringement is a serious thing.”

It’s difficult to understand the impact war has had, tearing not only families but music groups, like Waaberi, apart and well known musicians, like Hibo Nuura, from their people. With the war and disintegration of Somali society, the music scene is in crisis state. Crisis can sometimes foster moments of great inspiration and creativity, I’m thinking of German literature after World War II. But unlike German literature, which is read around the world, the Somali society is a very close-knit group and it maybe difficult for musicians and authors to gain an audience beyond their native Somali audience. The exception would rappers like K’naan.

As a blog that has covered Somali heavyweights like Maryam Mursal and Hassan Samatar, it’s can be difficult to find information on even these singers in any language other than Somali. If it’s difficult for me to find info and new Somali bands, it won’t be easy for the average world music fan to find anything.

I would be very interested in speaking or corresponding with anyone who might be knowledgeable about Somali music and patient enough to explain it to a very curious newcomer.

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Nuruddin FarahNuruddin Farah , a Somali author, most recently of the novel “Knots,” tackles the subject of bringing peace to Somala with insight into the most recent attempts at peace and the role Farah played. The article “My life as a diplomat” appears on Somali news site Saylac. Originally it appeared in the New York Times.

Watching from afar, people find it difficult to understand the intractability of the conflict in Somalia. The cycle of violence, almost mysteriously, remains uninterrupted. Peace breaks out. Victory is declared, as it was a couple of weeks ago when President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed’s Transitional Federal Government declared its triumph over the rival Islamic Courts Union and the clan-based militia fighting alongside it. And then the violence quickly erupts again.

In Somalia, it has been clan versus clan, Muslim Somalis versus Christian Ethiopians, for as long as anyone can remember. A recent United Nations report asserted that a dozen or so countries — Egypt, Eritrea and Iran among them — are engaged in trying to destabilize Somalia.

Why can’t Somalia arrest its downward spiral?

Read more.

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Jamila Jamma“Upon entering a tiny recording studio in a grimy Nairobi building, Felis removes her face veil, slides headphones onto her ears and starts singing in a high voice: “Girls are raped. Warlords are to blame”.

Over a soundtrack of world music and rap, Felis Abdi and the group Waayaha Cusub, made up of some 20 young Somali refugees, crudely slam the war that has torn up their country for 16 years, almost all their lives.”

The group of young Somali exiles in Nairobi continue to gain coverage. Although controversial, it’s interesting how Somali youth from Kenya to Canada are using hip-hop as a means for communicating their anger over their war-torn country. National Geographic did a good piece on the youth of Africa embracing hip-hop as a means of expressing their political frustration.

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Maryam MursalFrom being the one of first professional female singers in Somalia to being the first female in Mogadishu to drive a taxi cab before seeking refuge in Denmark, Maryam Mursal’s life has been marked by struggle and trail-blazing when necessary for her passions and to simply ensure the survival of her family. In 1966, backing centuries of men-only tradition, the teenage Mursal became one of the first professional female vocalists of the Muslim faith. It wasn’t long before her mastery of the Islamic and African music native to her country won over her fellow Somalians, and Mursal’s own lively blend of music, Somali jazz, which she developed singing in nightclubs, became the sound of her homeland.

Through her career in Somalia, she performed solo and with Waaberi a 300-member music and dance troupe associated with the Somali National Theatre. A piece from Interview Magazine’s Ray Rogers in March 1998, describes her accomplishments in Somalia and exile to Denmark by way of Djibouti, “In 1986 Mursal sang a song called “Ulimada” (“The Professors”), a thinly veiled criticism of her country’s ruling dictator, which led to a ban of her music and another first: In order to feed her family, Mursal became Somalia’s first female taxi driver.

When the regime fell in 1991, Mursal once again became a shining star in her country. Soon, though, the intertribal fighting in Somalia escalated, sending her and her five children packing.

They spent seven months crossing the Horn of Africa by foot, bus, any means necessary, to safety. Mursal was eventually granted refugee status by Denmark, where she was discovered singing to a crowd of three hundred fellow refugees in 1992 by Soren Kjoer Jensen, now her producer and manager. He brought Mursal to the attention of Peter Gabriel, who decided to sign her to his Real World label in 1994.”

In July 1997 Real World released “New Dawn,” Maryam’s recording with the core survivors of the band Waaberi, once a 300-strong troupe of singers, dancers, musicians and actors from the Somalian National Theatre before the destruction of the civil war.

According to her page on the Real World website, one day Maryam hopes to return home to Somalia. “The first good thing I hear about my country, the first suggestion that it is changing, and I will go back – and quickly. It might take five years or even ten years but one day things will change. Everybody needs their country. At home you can be a star but then as a refugee you are looked at like a dog. I am a refugee but I am also a singer. That is my job and that is how I survive.”

You can see Maryam Mursal on two YouTube videos. The first opens in the middle of a performance of Cidlaan Dareemaya (I Feel Alone), contains an interview, and then closes with a performance of Heesteema.

The second video is a live performance in Djibouti. Although the sound is a bit rough, the performance is very good.

The final piece is an interview with Mursal from Freemuse.org explaining in an interview in Haderslev, Denmark, in 2006, her beliefs in music and the Quran. If you have any comments or suggestions please feel free to add them. You can also contact me at mnworldbeat at gmail dot com.

Resources for Maryam Mursal

I am greatly in debted to a blog called “Confessions from a funky ghetto hjabi” for her piece on Maryam Mursal.

Maryam Mursal – Wikipedia Entry

Real World Label – Maryam Mursal’s Page

Waaberi – Wikipedia Entry

Minneapolis World Beat Past Post on Waaberi

Waaberi – Page on the Real World Website

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K’naanI have covered Somali rapper, K’naan, on multiple occasions. The brilliance of his lyrics, his freestyle capability, and his serving as a voice for the voiceless in Somalia, always keep me coming back for more. To find more on K’naan:

• Check out his Myspace site and listen to his freestyle piece with Mos Def or Blues 4 the Horn

• Check out K’naan’s latest video “Kicked and Pushed”
• Read his article “Talking back To The Empire” published in NOW Magazine, a Toronto-based publication
• View other videos on his website
• Listen to an interview with K’naan on CBC Radio

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After a bit of a search I was able to find music from a Somali singer living in Minneapolis. The singer’s name is Layla Kootali, and she has a great voice and video.


I found the video on a site called Bartamaha, a comprehensive web site for Somali songs, news, and other issues related to Somali. Although not Somali, the website also features a performance by reggae band, the Ark Kings. Although it’s good, the sounds on the Ark Kings’ website is even better.

According to their web site, the Ark Band is a St Lucia foundation reggae band now based in Columbus, Ohio. Founded in 1987 by Terry Bobb and Eustace Bobb, the St Lucian Riddim Twins, drums and bass respectively, The Ark Band continues its reggae odyssey throughout the United States and on occasion has travelled to Canada and Jamaica to share its roots reggae ( with a likkle bit of soca ) with the peoples of the world.

For additional songs by the band check out their grooves page and scroll to the bottom.

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