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.


Brian said...

I just recently discovered your blog. You have a ton of great music on here. I am a DJ at a community radio station in Boise, ID. We are just starting our FM broadcast. My show is a world music show and I really enjoyed the music you have here. Definately a fan of your blog!

corey r said...

another thoroughly informative entry. i've been stuck on dur dur since your initial post...and am very excited to hear more! thank you!

Anonymous said...

Great post, John B. Thank you. Please can you post the very hard to find Nigerian-Ibo star Show Promoter & His Dancing Boys when possible. Still can't a reasonable quality of his works anywhere.
Thanks in advance.

John B. said...

Anon: I've been meaning to post some Show Promoter for some time. I've got some Bob Sir Merenge all digitized and ready to go. I'm just waiting for some feedback from a friend.

Andreas Wetter said...

John & Sanaag,
thanks! Another great job!

ludo said...

Fantastic music, I had no idea Somali music was so great. Ma Hurdee should be recognized as one of the reggae masterpieces of the period. :)

Royce said...

Great post on Dur Dur! Since your previous posts I've discovered a former member of Dur Dur who now lives here in Melbourne, Australia named Abdi Mohamed Abdi. He joined the band in the late seventies when he was 12 years old and played accordion with them for a few years. After the civil war, he spent 17 years in a refugee camp in Kenya before being accepted as a refugee in Australia. While in the refugee camp he started a new band called the Somali Peace Band and the members of the band, including lead singer Dacaad Rashiid are still living in Kenya where they're having trouble with al-Shabaab the Islamic militant group controlling large parts of Somalia which views all music as anti-Islamic according to sharia law. You can check out the trailer for a documentary I am working on about Abdi and Dacaad's story here;

Sanaag said...

@ Royce: Thanks for the heads up! I hope the musicians are faring well and Abdi is still playing accordion as hardly anybody in Somalia slings it nowadays. Rashiid Daacad's songs are abundantly available on the net, but are his and Abdi's CD's on sale anywhere? Looking forward to the doumentary. Good luck!

Imo, Al-Shabaab's hugger-mugger radicalism was initially much less destructive than the average warlord. Since they're branded 'terrorists' by poor-visioned foreign policies, they became a magnet for all kinds of Talibanic groups. That gave them the edge to step up on the accelerator and destroy who- and whatever (inc. koranic verses) stands in their path! It's comforting many artists are still speaking out against this horror.

Sanaag said...

Received from a friend a while back:

I gather it's a part of this campaign:

Best wishes for 2012.