Showing posts with label Waaberi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Waaberi. Show all posts

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Odds and Ends

Taking care of some unfinished business today. . . Many thanks to Ken Chijar Ekezie, who provides us with Part Two of the exceedingly rare "Yokolo" by Docteur Nico and Orchestre African Fiesta Sukisa (above). As far as I know, "Yokolo" has only been available in its entirety as Sides A & B of a single issued and re-issued (Sukisa 501 and Ngoma DNJ 5274) sometime in the late '60s. Part One was included on the Nigerian compilation Music From Zaïre Vol. 3 (Soundpoint SOP 043) which I posted here.

Here is "Yokolo Pt. 2":

Docteur Nico & Orchestre African Fiesta Sukisa - Yokolo Pt. 2

And here are Pts. 1 & 2 joined together:

Docteur Nico & Orchestre African Fiesta Sukisa - Yokolo Pts. 1 & 2

Loyal Likembe reader/listener Sanaag, who has done so much to enlighten us on the Somali music scene of the '70s and '80s, graces us once again with a better pressing of the LP Famous Songs: Hits of the New Era (Radio Mogadishu SBSLP-102, 1973), this time complete with liner notes! You can get it all here. And thanks once again, Sanaag!

Update: Many thanks to African Music Recycler for providing us with a scan of the sleeve for "Yokolo." It gives credit to "Docteur Nico & Orchestre African Fiesta." I'm fairly certain, though, thanks to Alistair Johnston's Docteur Nico Discography, that it is by African Fiesta Sukisa. This was Dr. Nico's band following his split with Rochereau, which gave rise to two orchestras, African Fiesta Sukisa and African Fiesta National.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

More From the Ministry of Information and National Guidance

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:

A couple of the songs are in the same vein as in Somalia Sings Songs of the New Era but there are notable differences. I'll try to provide some context while commenting on the tracks.

"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:

"Tolweynaha Hantiwadaagga Ah" ("The Socialist Community") is in spirit comparable to "The Internationale" and calls for justice and equality by and for all humans, as well as solidarity among the working classes.

I couldn't find when exactly the song was written but I believe it predates the coup d'état of 1969. The composer, Abdi Muhumud Amin (left), was a genuine socialist and a quintessential patriot who firmly believed that the Government should use its authority and resources justly, and primarily to empower the poor, the powerless and the voiceless silent majority. In addition to the general indignation towards the egregious crimes committed by the regime, his longstanding personal commitment to high morality was probably why he was extremely offended by Siad Barre. The latter abused socialism and other ideologies merely to deceitfully contrast himself with the preceding corrupt and loathed authorities, therefore hoping to bolster his power base.

Under the illusion that Barre and his minions embraced socialism, Abdi initially composed revolutionary songs for which he later publicly apologized and even nullified by composing new songs with exactly the opposite meaning. For example, "Caynaanka Hay" ("Hold the Bridle/Lead Us") on the album you've already posted became "Caynaanka Daa" ("Let the Bridle Go/Resign"). His scorching criticism of the system and personal attacks on Barre became subsequently legendary material. It culminated in the staging of his play "Muufo mise Laankruusar" ("Dry Bread versus Landcruisers") opposing goatee-sporting, Gucci-dressed and SUV-driving elites to the common man and woman, some of whom couldn't even afford a dry bread. It's widely believed this was one of the plays that incited the people to rise up against the tyranny, hence precipitating the downfall of the dictatorship. It would amount to a miracle if this drama was approved by the omnipresent Censorship Board. It's more plausible the artists circumvented the long claws of the bureaucratic red tape by presenting a different play or programme for the customary preemptive inspections.

The play premiered on 1st May 1979, in the presence of the plenary upper echelons of the government and the top brass of the army. As the theme of the production was crystal clear right from the very first sentences, some of the disconcerted and vexed all-loyalist spectators jumped up immediately to interrupt the performance. It's alleged that the splendid conductor Barre faced the audience and mockingly rebutted with: "Let them have their moment of glory and make us laugh. Nobody here agrees with them, anyway, and we shouldn't spoil this festive Labour Day". Maestro, let the festivities begin! Or not? Well, Barre's honourable admonition and solemn vow, for which he's rewarded with the single standing ovation of that fateful night, vanished like vapour. Abdi and most of the artists were arrested on the stage (long) before the curtains fell. The celebration was thus metamorphosed into a tragedy, with a brilliant final chord: An original method to preserve a night for the posterity saw the daylight! (Note: See update below).

"Beletweyne Pts 1 & 2": This is an epic about a love at first sight. The singer catches a glimpse of a stunning beauty queen in Beletweyne, a city in south-central Somalia. It was during a short working visit "in the prosperous, blithe, rapturous, golden days" and he instantly falls in love with her. Their paths cross each other once more and they exchange very brief but amorously charged amenities. Unfortunately, the "cursed, insensitive leader of the group" decides they'd be leaving on the very same day and his appeals and pretexts were not heeded. The story ends dramatically as our Cupido's profound yearnings remained (involuntarily) unrequited. In fact, he never sets eyes on the obscure object of his desires again and he's still looking for his Beerlula (a nickname meaning "bellydancer", symbol of freedom and freedom of expression). He "now realizes, like Boodhari (Somalia's Romeo) did ages ago, that love can be an incurable disease, a dagger in your heart and liver, a reason to commit suicide. . ."

As of mid-70s, a growing number of observers interpreted it as a depiction of the various stages of the military dictatorship - from the initial immediate infatuation, through the subsequent intense disappointment to the prediction of the final demise of the crown and the current on-going disaster. That's why it's branded with the ominous term "kacaandiid" (anti-revolutionary) and was banned from the airwaves. Ironically, the roots of this ill-chosen compound word is "kacis" (to rise up) and "diidis" (to reject). As people and language are both endowed with the capacity to remember and retaliate, it's thus only a matter of happy coincidence that those frequent prohibitions consequently and justly abetted the public appetite to rebel and to shower the forbidden fruits with more (underground) exposure and accolades. "Beletweyne" was indeed the most played song in the whole decade. It's banned from the official channels but the volume surged up in homes, cafes, buses, street corners etc. If they wanted to arrest everyone who defied the ban, they would have been obliged to transform all government offices into prisons:

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
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
* The Somali word "weli" means both still and saint, a derogatory epithet for the big sinner/human rights violator Siad Barre.

Update 2: An interesting commentary on this post here.

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. . .'"

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Somali Songs of the "New Era"

Thanks to Roskow Kretschmann of Black Pearl Records for passing on a unique historical recording, the LP Somalia Sings Songs of the New Era (Radio Mogadishu SBSLP-100) issued in 1972 in the first flush of Somalia's "Scientific Socialist Revolution."

Mohammad Siad Barre (right) came to power in Somalia on October 21, 1969 as the result of a coup d'etat following the assassination of Abdirachid Ali Shermarke, Somalia's second president. The governing Somali Revolutionary Council undertook a number of arguably progressive tasks such as standardizing the Somali language and making efforts to lessen the role of clans in Somali society.

Close ties with the Soviet Union, the adoption of "Marxism-Leninism" as the ruling ideology and the development of a Stalinoid "personality cult" around Siad Barre obscured what was basically an old-fashioned military dictatorship with grievous violations of human rights and mounting popular opposition from the mid-1970s on. Following Somalia's defeat by Ethiopian and Cuban troops during the Ogaden War of 1977-78, Somalia broke with the Eastern bloc and aligned itself with the United States. Subsequently the banner of "Scientific Socialism" in the Horn of Africa would be borne by Ethiopia under Mengistu Haile Mariam's Dergue.

Opposition to Siad Barre's regime had reached a fever pitch by the late 1980s and he was overthrown by Mohammad Farah Aidid's United Somali Congress on January 26, 1991. The resulting chaos in Somalia is well-known, with various armed groups jockeying for power in the years since. Siad Barre died in Lagos on January 2, 1995.

Not only are vinyl recordings of any kind from Somalia hard to come by, I'm fascinated by
Somalia Sings Songs of the New Era as a historical artifact. I asked our friend Sanaag, who was so helpful in the posts "Somali Mystery Funk" and "More Somali Funk," for his insights. Here are his thoughts:
. . . As you've already noticed, the tracks on the album are mainly contemptible praise songs for Siad Barre's ego. The lyrics are very poetic but, the anti-apartheid song and parts of "Gobanimo" and "Soomaalida Maanta" excepted, they are further devoid of any praiseworthy substance. So, I won't dwell long on their content. Instead, I'll try to shed some light on the context.

Since time immemorial, poetry has been the primary means of mass communication and cultural expression in Somali society. It's highly valued and has a tremendous impact on all walks of life. So much so that, according to an Amnesty International report dating from early 90's, poetry (and not the warlords) was the foremost weapon that tumbled the Somali military regime from it's high and haughty throne!

Siad Barre and his Jaalleyaal (comrades) understood the power of that tool all too well and tried to exploit it to promote their cause. They had initially a progressive agenda and rhetoric based on justice, socio-economic development, equal opportunities for all, protection and promotion of women's and minorities' rights etc. The political discourse was pregnant with noble promises and the expectations were high. Gutted by the corruption and nepotism rampant during the preceding civilian governments, many Somalis were enthusiastic about the new 'revolutionary course' and many artists lauded Siad Barre's initial goodwill and positive intentions. Unfortunately, it didn't take long before oppression, fear and mutual distrust were all the midwife could announce to the parturient crowds.

The artists on this series were all members of Waaberi, the house-band of the Ministry of Information and National Guidance. The name says it all: Propaganda and indoctrination! It was a large troupe with hundreds of members embracing dramaturgy, folklore dance and music.

It seems the ones on this album were carefully selected to rally support for the military regime. They were among the most popular in that period and, equally or maybe even more important, they came from practically all regions and clans. Their incipient stance in favour of the military regime, as depicted in these songs, may be genuine, fake, forced ... or all three at the same time, as dictatorial schizo-paranoia has its unfathomable ways. However, poet and playwright Sangub (composer of "Soomalida Maanta" & "Midab Gumeysi Diida") is to my knowledge the only one in this bunch who never disavowed Siad Barre's atrocities. That's why he's strongly despised across the board, notwithstanding his impressive and diverse body of literary work. The other protagonists in this album spoke their mind in subsequent songs and were, along with many others, arrested and/or exiled.

For instance, Abdi Muhumud Amin (composer of "Aynaanka Hay" & "Ha Iilan") was a prolific songwriter and a highly respected poet-playwright. A teenage member of the anti-colonial Somali Youth League (SYL) in the 40's and 50's, he composed many patriotic songs geared towards fighting against colonialism. Disenchanted with the post-independence civilian authorities, dominated by depraved SYL stalwarts, he soon switched into instigating the masses to rise up against the homegrown neo-colonialists. When the Armed Forces toppled the civilians in 1969, he sided with them and composed revolutionary songs. Only to realize within a few years that Siad Barre's regime was as nefarious as the ones it replaced and his criticism was ubiquitous and fierce. He later joined the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), the first armed opposition to Siad Barre's reign. Given his courageous and hapless track record, It's no wonder that Abdi was repeatedly imprisoned by the successive colonial, civilian and military administrations in Somalia. He died in 2008 in exile in Kenya where his funeral was attended by thousands of mourners, friends and foes alike.

Speaking of exile, Abdi was the composer of a song you previously asked about that I've already mailed to you - "Dalkeygow!" (Oh, my land!) by Faadumo Qaasim:

Faadumo Qaasim - Dalkeygow!

This is the passage telling why (s)he chose to live as a refugee:

. . . Oh, my land!
I didn't leave you as a tourist
No paradise on earth can replace you
In my body and soul
In my head and heart
Why am I roaming about in foreign countries?
Why am I obliged to beg and hold my hands up for strangers?
Why did I choose to live like a damned stateless person?
Why is it in my interest to opt for the status of a cursed refugee?
Oh, my land!
When clans and factions attacked each other
When relatives, friends and neighbours
Stabbed each other in the back and belly
When peace was denied and denigrated
When elders were not spared
When children were sent to the front
When all it belched was concentrated poison
That is when I had no choice
But to cross the borders
To seek a safe haven
To save my life . . .
Check out the oud solo starting at about 3:30; it summarizes this sad story pretty well.Here is Somalia Sings Songs of the New Era, with explanations of the songs from the liner notes:

"This song is one of the highly valued and widely spread songs of the New Era composed by the nationalist artist, Abdi Muhumud and sung by himself with the help of the Waaberi chorus.
This widely admired song which met international recognition of many artists from friendly countries is dedicated to the beloved leader and Father of the Nation, Jaalle Maj. Mohamed Siad Barre. Its main theme goes: 'The right path you have shown us; Our beloved leader march on; Our triumphant cause be its maintainer; Towards ultimate victory lead us ever":

"The composer of this number, Hussein Aw Farah, is one of the outstanding Revolutionary and patriotic songs composers in the Somali Democratic Republic. In this song he points out the reason why the Armed Forces, with the overwhelming support of the Somali people, took over the power from the corrupt civilian regimes who misruled the country for nine years. He explains that our sovereignty was in danger of total collapse, but the Armed Forces are now ready to defend it at the cost of their lives":

"These are the first words of the song: 'A Revolution dawned in Somalia today - October 21st - and is taking gigantic strides toward progress every year, every day, every hour and every wink.' This song, composed by the talented composer Mohamoud Abdillahi Singub, marks the international cause of the Revolution in Somalia as can be observed in the first few words. It also emphasizes Somalia's call for equality for the whole of mankind without arrogance and domination by some over others, for the elimination of colonialism; for international effort toward such elimination and for the execution of the human principles asserting the right of self-`determination of various peoples in every part of the world":

"This is one of the numerous Revolutionary songs aimed at encouraging the Father of the Nation, Jaalle Maj. General Mohamed Siad Barre, to hold high the banner of the blessed Revolution and to fight against colonialism and all its traces. The composer Abdi M. Amin, who has been honoured for his Revolutionary thoughts, again puts more emphasis in his words which goes: "Forward ever, Backward Never!":

"This song was composed by Mohamoud Abdillahi Singub & sung by Waaberi Artists with Abdi Ali Baalwan & Daleis in the leading role. the composer calls the African leaders to be united against the evils of colonialism, imperialism and Apartheid. The first words of this song point out why colonialism finds its way in Africa. 'Without strong bulwark, Ian Smith would have not dared to snatch off Rhodesia, nor Portugal tried to stay in Angola and Mozambique and to perpetuate genocide against African people, not the memory of the invisible knives to kill the freedom of Guinea in the dark faded away yet. We are also aware of the plight of Africans in South Africa":

Download Somalia Sings Songs of the New Era, complete with cover & liner notes, here.