Sunday, April 17, 2011

Happier Days

Back with a reminder of much, much happier days in Somalia, our good friend Sanaag passes on almost 80 minutes worth of music by the legendary Afro-funk band Dur Dur, who were among the most popular groups in Mogadishu back in the '80s. You may remember them from this post, and this one. I understand that after the collapse of Somalia in 1991, vocalist Sahra Dawo and other "newer" members of the group relocated to Columbus, Ohio, USA, where they have a presence on Facebook. Sanaag reports that the other members of the "old guard" featured here are scattered all over the world, except Muktar "Idi" Ramadan who unfortunately passed away a few months ago in Saudi Arabia.

As usual for Somali recordings of this vintage, the audio quality of these songs is not up to modern standards, but I'm sure you'll agree that their musical and historical qualities more than compensate. Here's what Sanaag has to say about them:
Durdur's songs are almost always drenched in love. To the best of my knowledge, they didn't address social or political issues during the military dictatorship and that's why their lyrics didn't make a lasting impression on me or flare up my interest in the band; hence my sketchy knowledge about their work and background. I was really delighted with the post-Siad Barre cassette Andreas posted at Kezira, in which they've several socially engaged tracks.

These songs are mainly in southern vernacular languages. I hail from about 1100 kms further up North and, though I understand the basics fairly well, I don't have the required baggage to fathom the linguistic and literary subtleties inherent to these dialects. Neither can I contextualize the songs since I don't know if, as was common during the military dictatorship, some of the songs were meant as protest double entendres, were adopted as such by the general public, if events were associated with them etc. That's why I'd rather not venture into summarizing, let alone publicly interpreting, the lyrics. Nevertheless, all the songs are conspicuously about love and I've tried to translate the tracktitles. Corrections are, of course, most welcome!

The following six songs are from the soundtrack of "Rafaad iyo Raaxo" ("Misfortune and Comfort"), a 1986 tragicomedy that was also filmed a couple of years later. "Duruuf Maa Laygu Diidee" means "Rejected Due to My Circumstances." The vocals are by Muktar "Idi" Ramadan:

In this song vocalist Shimaali Axmed Shimaali pleads, "Oh, Saafi! I Won't let You Go" (Saafi is a female name):

"Waanada Waxtarkayga Waaye" means "This Advice Does me Good/I'm Well Advised." Vocals by Cabdullaahi Shariif Baastow & Maryan Naasir:

"Muraadkay Waa Hellee" means "We've Reached Our Goal." Vocals by Muktar "Idi" Ramadan & Sahra Dawo:

"Ma Hurdee" ("I Can't Sleep"). Vocals by Sahra Dawo & Muktar "Idi" Ramadan:

"Rafaad iyo Raaxo" ("Misfortune & Comfort"). Vocals by Sahra Dawo & Muktar "Idi"Ramadan:

These next songs are from two tapes without album or song titles. The track names are thus the popular titles under which the songs were dubbed by the public (see the post on Iftin). "Waxan Sugi Ma Helayaa?" ("Shall I Get What I'm Waiting For?") is also known as "Saqda Dhexe Riyadiyo Sariir Maran" ("Midnight Dream in an Empty Bed"). Vocals by Sahra Dawo:

"Shaacaan Ka Qaadaa" ("I'm Revealing all of it") is also known as "Shallay Ma Roonee" ("Remorse Is Pointless"). Vocals by Sahra Dawo & Cabdullaahi Shariif Baastow:

Dur Dur - Shaacaan Ka Qaadaa

"Rag Kaleeto Maa Kuu Riyaaqayee?" ("Are Other Men Admiring You?"), aka "Reerkaagaa Joogee" ("Stay With Your Family"). Vocals by Cabdullaahi Shariif Baastow:

Dur Dur - Rag Kaleeto Maa Kuu Riyaaqayee?

Cilmi Ismaaciil Liibaan (better known as Boodhari) is the main protagonist in a true love story that took place in in the 1930s in Berbera, a town in the current Somaliland. He was in his thirties when he fell head over heels in love with Hodon, a teenage girl whose parents were opposed to a relationship between the two due to the difference in age and social class; he worked in a bakery and she belonged to one of the richest families in the area. Hugely burdened and dismayed by the unrequited love, Boodhari composed numerous poems and songs about this forbidden love. Hodon eventually got married to another man and, though this is not corroborated by watertight evidence, Boodhari became so disconsolate that he finally committed suicide. It's not established beyond doubt that all the poems and songs attributed to Boodhari were indeed written by him, but his legend and compositions have certainly been part and parcel of Somali love stories ever since. The song "Boodhari Sidiisii" ("In Boodhari's Footsteps") is also known as "Maruun ii Bishaarey!" ("Surprise Me Once With Good News!"). The vocals are by Cabdullaahi Shariif Baastow:

"Doobnimaadey Maka Dogoownee" ("Getting Old Single") is also known as "Dersi Anaa Lahaa" ("I Need A Lesson [In Love]"). Vocals by Sahra Dawo:

Dur Dur - Doobnimaadey Maka Dogoownee

"Oh, Angelic Beauty!" Vocals by Cabdullaahi Shariif Baastow:

The title of this song means "A Joking Madman." Vocals by Cabdullaahi Shariif Baastow & Sahra Dawo:

"Waxla Aaminaan Jirin" ("Nobody To Confide In/NothingTo Trust"), aka "Is Yeelyeel" ("Simulation, Pretense"). Vocals by Sahra Dawo:

Download these songs as a zipped file here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lapiro de Mbanga Freed!

By way of Makossa Original and Freemuse we receive the happy news that Camerounian musician Lapiro de Mbanga was freed April 8 after three years of harsh imprisonment.

Lapiro was arrested following riots in 2008 against the high cost of living and constitutional changes that made Cameroun's kleptocratic president Paul Biya eligible to run for re-election indefinitely. He ran unsuccessfully in local elections on the opposition Social Democratic Front slate in 2006 but the precipitating event for his arrest and sentence seems to have been his song "Constitution Constipeé," a critique of the Biya regime that became the unofficial anthem of the protests.

The past three years have seen an international campaign on behalf of Lapiro, which apparently fell on deaf ears. He served every day of his sentence.

Join me in celebrating the release of Lapiro De Mbanga with his wonderful album Ndinga Man (Energy Productions NE 5003), which was released in the late '80s:

Download Ndinga Man as a zipped file here, and enjoy this video, "Everybody to Kondengui Prison," about which Dibussi Tande says, ". . .In this fiery and no-holds-barred song released last year [2007], Lapiro lashes out against the symbols of decay in today's Cameroun: A regime in power which has turned its back on all the nationalist slogans of the early years; generalized corruption that has affected every stratum of society ; an insolent and arrogant ruling elite brazenly parading symbols of ostentatious consumption (vulgar SUVs out of place on Cameroon's roads, huge castles amidst appalling squalor, some shown in the video). . .":