Somaliland: History of Local Music

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By Abdirahman Ahmed Shunuf and Najib Ahmed Shunuf
Somalilandsun – It is difficult to avoid being everywhere. From Harta Sheekh, Hargeisa, Berbera, Burao, the music squeaks and scratches itself out of every restaurant and shop, not even buses, taxis and private cars are safe. To a non-Somali speaking person some of the music must seem unbearable, psychedelic, weird and indeed to a certain extent the quality of some of the harsher emissions emanating from the omnipresent tape recorders and distorted radios is unbearable. But, this unbearable problem is of reproduction, not music. Any live music by an outstanding Somaliland singer ‘Caqaarta’ singing and ‘Gin’ playing the ‘Oud’ or ‘Faysel’ singing and ‘Xodeydeh’ on the ‘Oud’ will soon convince the untrained listener of the finer qualities of the “Somaliland sound”.
Somaliland music as opposed to clan music, based on folklore traditions consists of a combination between the tender melodies of the nomads, the explosive hot drumbeats of black Africa and just a little colorful instrumental accompaniment. This music as transmitted by radio and tapes and performed at innumerable afternoon and night parties and weddings, is comparatively young. It is an urban sound. This urban population created a distinctly characteristic musical style, as yet untouched by the vampire grip of the international music business (lately music abroad is penetrating deeply into the country). An early ancestor of the music is the traditional folklore music of Somaliland called “Hees” which includes “Dhaanto”, “Jiifto”, and others.
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