Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Echoes of Mogadishu Past

Happy New Year! Once again I must apologize for the infrequency of posts here on Likembe. There is no one reason why the spirit hasn't moved me to write more often, but I've made a New Years resolution to step up the pace in 2013. As luck would have it, reader/listener Sanaag has provided us with yet another glimpse at the wonderful Somali music and theater scene of the 1980s. This is a world that has almost disappeared but that, hopefully, may be on the verge of a renaissance with the coming of a measure of stability to Somalia. Sanaag has been an invaluable contributor to Likembe over the years, and I'm happy to announce that he now has his own blog, Tix iyo Tiraab, where this originally appeared. Here's Sanaag:
Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir (Banaadir Entertainment Lions)was a popular theater troupe founded in the late 70s/early 80s by a group of veteran artists and fledgeling talents. The project was intended to integrate young and old, tradition and modernity - a sort of Scorsese/Levin's "Godfathers and Sons" avant la lettre... but here with the Godmothers and Daughters, too. Besides entertainment, LMB's main goal revolved around the preservation and dissemination of the performing arts heritage of Banaadir, the region comprising Mogadishu and its immediate surroundings. In their, alas, ephemeral existence, they produced about a dozen plays which were highly appreciated nationwide.

This tape carries the soundtrack of the mid-80s play "Xiddigtii Is Xujeysay" ("The Self-Denouncing Star"). In that period, drama productions were staged in theaters and open stadia, and spread on VHS. The play/film scores were, however, rarely released apart on tape. Given the sonic flaws, this k7 is probably a bootleg recorded live outdoors by an audience member - Somalia's number one hobby at the time.

The play was written by Faynuus Sheekh Daahir (left), a renowned theater actress and folk dancer. To the best of my knowledge, this is her only play. Nevertheless, if the material on this tape is anything to go by, she is apparently equally proficient in spinning poetic lyrics (and thought-provoking dialogues). Besides the title of the play, some tracks gladly betray the burlesque tragi-comedy and tackled a number of socio-political issues as well. Songs like "Naga Tag! Kac! Hooyaa? ("Get Lost! Rise Up! Got It?") ) and "Abidkaay Ammaan Ma Sheegin" ("I Never Dish Out [Unjustified] Praise Words") must have flagellated the dictatorial heartbeat into higher and haunted spheres. . .

From memory: The female star (Somalia?) and the male star (Freedom?) are in love with each other while a third protagonist (the dictator?) is moving heaven and earth to drive them apart. Its political significance lies n my opinion in the fact that it and similar mid-80s-dramas preceded and may have partially inspired the second wave of armed opposition groups

All the tracks are sung or poetically recited by Axmed Naaji Sacad, Maxamed Cabdow Saalim and mainly Faadumo Qaasim, a brightly shining star since the '60s who sadly passed away last year. R.I.P !

For each play LMB toured with a different musical ensemble, almost always consisting of traditional and modern instrumentalists. The musical direction of this piece was in the hands of the aforementioned multitalented Axmed Naaji Sacad (below right) whose great '70s band "Shareero" is playing the lead role.

The modern instruments are up front and I, for one, would be content with less Hohner organ and more roars by the local instruments. The music and singing are, however, often based on the notes of time-honoured traditional poetry, dance and music genres. In addition to the readily recognizable modern instruments, anyone who is familiar with Somali culture will also frequently detect in this tape and get tingled - from head to heels - by an impressive array of currently neglected traditional instruments.

Although sparsely used and often overwhelmed by the electric instruments, some local lions are still holding their own. Particularly the reeme (roaring drum), shagal (metal hoe-blades), shunuuf (vegetable ankle rattles), shambal(wooden clappers), malkad (flute), and sumaari (double clarinet) casually manage to swing to the forefront. These precious and endangered instruments are setting the pace by generating distinct rhythms and melodies (see genres below) to send a call to a group of colourfully clad folk dancers who respond with graciously intoxicating and sinuously serpentine movements... gently enticing the spectators (occasionally including Yours Truly) to the dance floor.

Those were the days...!

"Soo Xarakoo" ("Strut Out In Style") Put on your best suit, concoct your magic elixir and present your case for love. Genre: Batar/Botor.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Soo Xarakoo

"Adaan Milkigaa Ahee" ("I Am All Yours") A double entendre. (Denunciation of) total submission to a spellbinding "suitor" Genre: Wiglo.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Adaan Milkigaa Ahee

"Abidkaay Ammaan Ma Sheegin" ("I Never Dish Out [Unjustified] Praise Words"). Vocalists and instrumentalists exchange compliments while subtly emphasizing that gratuitous praise of the undeserving is nothing but self-deprecation. Genre: Sharax, Saylici

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Abidkaay Ammaan Ma Sheegin

"Naga Tag! Kac! Hooyaa?" ("Get Lost! Rise Up! Got It?"). Leaves no room for the imagination: The gun salvos, funeral processions, public rage... were in the mid-80s Somalia not yet pervasive but they're already an essential and gruesome part of the tyrannical policies and histrionics. Genre: Geblo shimbir.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Naga Tag! Kac! Hooyaa?

"Diinle Kabiiroow" ("Diinle, The Great"). Disappointment in and fury towards the clique that usurps the key to your love/life/rights and a complaint about the chief and his entourage who are greedy, pompous, unreasonable, unjust... and don't listen to the wise elders. Genre: Kabeebey.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Diinle Kabiiroow

"Hab I Soo Dheh" ("Jump Into My Arms"). The tragedy of unrequited love: He's hopelessly in love and she's diligently rejecting him. Genre: Walasaqo.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Hab I Soo Dheh

"Haan Iyo Haruubkeed" ("Water Container and Its Cover/Milk Vessel and Its Lid") "United we stand! The lovebirds are tired of waiting for the blessing of the self-appointed chargés d'affaires and take matters into their own hands. Genre: Dhaanto.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Haan Iyo Haruubkeed

"Waa Habeenkii Dhalashadaadee" ("It's Your Birthnight"). Happy with the decision they made in the last track and the rebirth of their freedom. Genre: Saddexley.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Waa Habeenkii Dhalashadaadee

"Kun Qof Iiga Roonoow" ("More Valuable Than a Thousand Persons"). Boundless love. Genre: Niiko.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Kun Qof Iiga Roonoow

"Sabraayaa Sedkii Hela" ("Patience Pays Off"). Those who are made for each other (lovers, people and their sovereignty...) always find each other. The two halves become One, no matter how long it takes. Genre: Hirwo.

Libaaxyada Maaweeliska Banaadir - Sabraayaa Sedkii Hela


PS. I'm not an expert and it's quite possible that my recognition of the multitude of Somali genres is, in some cases, off beat. Many genres ressemble each other and some are as deceptively similar as identical twins. I'd appreciate any corrections and additional info.

PPS. I've the impression a couple of tracks are missing. Anyone?

Download Xiddigtii Is Xujeysay as a zipped file here.


Joe said...


this is terrific!


WrldServ said...

I am very glad to see that you are still there!
I can't wait to read/see/listen to the fruits of your New Years resolution.
Happy New Year!

Jossy said...

Is it possible to post the songs ORCHESTRA VIVA LA MUSICA which are as follows:
MUANA MOLOKAI-1 & 2 (Orch.Viva La Musica, 08 91 545 Time)
SHARUFA-ELU 1 & 2 (Orch.Viva La Musica, Soneca Mazadis).
I wish I post it on the blog likembe 45 rounds YOKA Lokolé as:
B-matembele BANGI
KILO-PESA nzoto A & B
Here is the link to watch the images of these singles:http://www.geocities.jp/earthworks1972/lingala/disco/yoka_lokole.htm

Anonymous said...

This is fantastic I have to find some time to enjoy it, a while ago I see this group (I think) at satellite tv, do not understand the language but the staging is very bright, lately I've recorded some episodes of shows with the group and till now I had no clue to identify them.

John thank you very much for reminding me to Snaag and for the zip.

Pending more wonders !

gilhodges said...

Always a thrill to see a new Likembe offering. (And what an offering!) Thanks John.

Sanaag said...

@NGONI Can you please uplaod those shows? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

@Sanaag Surely I would share it with pleasure, the recordings are in my hand, but they are among a batch of more than one hundred hours of recordings waiting to be reviewed to write down the content.
I'll see if I can find some fun performance, most of the material is fragmented, is issued as a filling.
Sadly my free time is limited.

Sanaag said...

@NGONI Take your time, there's no rush. Gracias!

Sanaag said...

@NGONI Thanks a lot for the video! Actually, it's not LMB but Waaberi which is also featured on this blog. The whole play is on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJ9sk9lqcXQ