Note: This post was updated with better-quality rips of the original vinyl on July 26, 2012.
Our good friend Sanaag comes through once again with Famous Songs: Hits of the New Era (Radio Mogadishu SBSLP-102, 1973), Volume Three in the series that began with Somalia Sings Songs of the New Era, one of Likembe's most popular recent posts.
These records were issued under the aegis of the Somali Ministry of Information and National Guidance to rally support for the military government of Mohammad Siad Barre, which in the early '70s had "socialist" pretensions. For all their propagandistic aspects, it would be a mistake to dismiss their musical qualities. Waaberi, the Somali super-group featured on Somalia Sings and Famous Songs, pre-dated the 1969 military coup and was a training ground for many great singers, including Xaliimo Khaliif Magool, Maryam Mursal and Sahra Axmed. Moreover, some of Somalia's greatest poets and songwriters, in a burst of revolutionary enthusiasm, contributed to this project. Like Somalia's "revolutionary socialism," this support was destined not to last.
By the way, diligent readers/listeners may be interested in this blog post (also brought to my attention by Sanaag). As far as I can understand what this fellow is trying to say, he's drawing a parallel between Siad Barre's dictatorship in Somalia and the current U.S. Administration. Or something like that. Although his logic seems a little convoluted to me, I'm glad he appreciates what we're offering here at Likembe.
Heres is Sanaag's take on Famous Songs: Hits of the New Era:
"Aabbe Siyaad" ("Father Siyaad") is sung by Ubaxa Kacaanka ("The Revolutionary Flowers"), destitute and often orphaned children raised in government-sponsored centres. In this song, they are deploring the hardships they and the whole nation had to endure before that period. They're also expressing their gratitude and loyalty to their adoptive father, i.e. Siad Barre, for the "striking structural changes overall" and particularly for "the light he brought into their lives". Although caring for these children was an excellent deed, the flipside of the medal was that they were horribly indoctrinated to the extent that some eventually had to spy on their families and friends. I'm not familiar with composer Cabdikariin Faarax and I couldn't find anything about him.
Waaberi & Ubaxa Kacaanka - Aabbe Siyaad
"Itaageer Allahayow" ("God, Stand by Me!"): Composer Maxamed Cali Kaariye (left) was a fertile songwriter and playwright. He's arguably the king of the love genre of his generation. In this track, he's exhibiting his admiration for the initial achievements of the military regime while putting the emphasis on the necessity for each Somali to support the revolution by contributing his/her best to the development of the whole society. In short: One for all, all for one and god/the revolution for us all. N.B. The title is probably wrongly printed. "Itaageer Allahayow" was another love hit from the same period sung by Mooge. If my memory doesn't fail me, this track is called "U Bogaadinee Allhayow!" ("By God, We Congratulate Them!").
Waaberi & Students - Itaageer Allahayow
"Magac U Yaal" ("Pronoun"): The composer is Maxamud Cabdullahi Ciise ("Sangub," right) who, despite his immense contribution to Somalia's contemporary poetry and prose, fell from popular grace by allegedly supporting the dictatorship till the bitter end. The track is dealing with the widespread joy that came with the official standardization of the Somali language in 1972. Somali is an agglutinative language with a rather complex grammar.This song introduces a number of ingenious and dexterous tricks to the trade of remembering and applying the new grammatical rules correctly.
Prior to the formalization, a score of scripts existed for the language - some for centuries. The discussions, overheated debates and tug-of-wars around this issue started in the late 19th century but couldn't materialize because of differences in interest and allegiance. For practical convenience, an 'independent' advisory committee set up right after the independence finally chose one of the Latin-based alphabets. That decree didn't go down well with some of the supporters of the original Somali scripts or Arabic-based alphabets. The ensuing conflict had eventually led to the imprisonment of some cacophonous antagonists, who were supposedly offered to set an example for any prospective dissonance:
Waaberi & Xasan Aadan Samatar - Beletweyne Pt. 1
Waaberi & Xasan Aadan Samatar - Beletweyne Pt. 2
As far as I know, Maxamed Ibraahim Warsamehe ("Hadraawi," left), composer of "Beletweyne," one the most famous and highly esteemed living poets and playwrights in Somalia, declined all requests to provide footnotes as to to the whys and hows behind the lyrics. However, he's well known for his vehement and unremitting protest against the dictatorship. He even passed more than a decade behind bars and in exile, including five years in solitary confinement in the notorious Qansax Dheere - Somalia's "Robben Island" where many dissidents were incarcerated. He left the country a few years after his release to join the Somali National Movement (SNM), the front that defeated Barre's army in the current secessionist Somaliland. He's nonetheless against the dismemberment of the country and didn't take part in any of the post-Barre political factions. Instead, he undertook many activities stressing the importance of unity and rule of law. For example, he organized an arduous "Long March for Peace" together with other bardic heavyweights belonging to all clans and regions who were joined along the way by an ever-growing number of citizens. They categorically declined to be protected by body guards, and that was tantamount to risking their lives in the face of the pervasive and undiscriminating war. Their premonition that peace couldn't strut with weapons paid off well. In (almost) all the districts they visited, the guns were briefly silenced and the marchers were welcomed with an overwhelming warmth and hospitality, as if they were long lost friends and relatives. A Somali proverb goes "Gabayaa geyi waa gubi karaa. Abwaan asay waa aasi karaa" ("A poet can set a land on fire. A poet can put an end to the mourning!") More on Hadraawi here.
Waaberi - Tolweynaha Hantiwadaagga Ah (Reprise)
Download Famous Songs: Hits of the New Era as a zipped file here. For more music like this, two songs from Volume Two in this series are available here.
Update: Sanaag writes, "Thanks to Baraxow who contacted me after this entry was posted. According to him, the play was staged again in the late 80s, at the sunset of Siad Barre's regime. It started with the following short poem, spoken in choir while pointing fingers at Siad Barre and the rest of the bigwigs:
Dalkan dadkiisii baannahayoo* The Somali word "weli" means both still and saint, a derogatory epithet for the big sinner/human rights violator Siad Barre.
Muufo maraqle baan dalbanaynaa
Laankruusarkiinna waan diidnayoo
Dacalladaan ka dalandalin doonnaa
Annagu weli* muufaan rabnaa
Muufo macaan baan rabnaa
Maraqaan ku dhuuqnaan rabnaa
Markan maqaloo yeelo miyir waasacan
We're the people of this land
We demand dry bread with sauce/soup
We reject/resent your Landcruisers
We'll throw them down a steep cliff
We still demand dry bread (or we demand dry bread from the saint)*
We demand delicious dry bread
We demand sauce/soup to imbibe/imbue it with
Listen this time and be wise and just
Update 3: Liner notes available below (click to enlarge). Sanaag writes, ". . .The sleeve notes are a real gem. Just like those on the other record, they are manipulated to say what the dictatorship wants to hear and not necessarily what the artists say in the songs. In popular speech and folktales, Siad Barre's leading ideologues are called Askar (Somali for non-commissioned officers or colnoial soldiers) and they prove that majestically. The basic tenets of (Somali) culture and socialism were apparently rocket science to those so-called intellectuals and culture connoisseurs. Even the Internationale was alien to Siad's finest "socialist" experts! Hilarious! It's reminiscent of Nuruddin Farah's trilogy 'Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship. . .'"