From the late 1960s until the early 1990s, the particularly vibrant music scene in Mogadishu was teeming with pop and folk musicians whose influences spanned several genres of Somali traditional music alongside influences from abroad.
Dur-Dur Band's music emerges from a time when Somalia's distinctive contribution to the creative culture in the Horn of Africa was clear and abundant--hundreds of recordings made at the Somali National Theatre, Radio Mogadishu and other studios, combined with cherished clubs like Juba and Jazeera and al-Curuuba Discotheque created a backdrop for a flourishing music scene.
Bands like Dur-Dur, Iftin, Shareero, on one hand, embodied inspiration from international pop. Everything from Michael Jackson and Phil Collins and Bob Marley and Santana, as well as James Brown and American soul music in general, were fair game. Equally important were ensembles whose focus on the more traditional side of Somali music. These groups helped develop a continuity with pre-colonial musical practices and oral literature that persist in popularity to this day. Seminal ensembles Waberi and Horsed, for example, generated a legacy of masterworks and from them emerged seasoned musicians whose efforts rippled through the music scene. Both aspects of recent music history can still be heard on the lively array of Somali music, news video websites, and of course YouTube.
After going through a few iterations through the 80s, by 1987 Dur-Dur's line-up featured singers Abdinur Daljir and Sahra Dawo, as well as [band list and instrumentation here]. This instrumentation was the predominant format of pop groups at the time, eventually almost completely supplanted by synthesizers and sequencers over the next few years. Dur-Dur Band managed to release almost a dozen recordings before emigrating to Djibouti and eventually settling in America.
Dur-Dur Band, a so-called "private band" not beholden to government pressure to sing about political topics and disinterested in producing subversive messages, practiced a love- and culture-oriented lyricism. Government-sponsored bands like those of the military and the police forces, as well as many of the well-known folk musicians, made songs chiefly political and patriotic in nature.
In a country that has since been shattered by civil war, unstable security and heated clan divisions, music and the arts suffered from stagnation and many of the most active musicians left the country. Music became nearly outlawed in Mogadishu in 2010. Incidentally, more than ten years after Volume 5 was recorded Radio Mogadishu, the state-run broadcaster was the only station in Somalia to resist the ban on music that was enacted by Al-Shabab.
Dur-Dur Band is a powerful and illustrative lens through which to appreciate one small facet of the incredible sounds being created in Somalia before the country's stability took a turn.
Despite challenges, Somali music of all kinds persists both in the Horn of Africa region and abroad in the Somali diaspora worldwide, from Ohio to Minneapolis to Oslo to Sydney. Artists have since begun to return to Mogadishu, which bodes well for the future of music and expression in Somalia.
1. Dur-Dur Band Introduction--Singer Abdinur Daljir announces the band embers names over an excerpt of a track from a previous album.
2. “Hayeelin”—“Don't Do It.” The title refers to a person who is in love and asking the audience for advice about his love situation. He is so madly in love that he even thinks of committing suicide. One of the verses says, “Staying awake is help to this soul because even telling itself it will be all right doesn’t help it fall asleep.” The background singers respond with, “Hayeelin sidaa hayeelin ilaah baa kuu sahlii ee,” meaning, “Don’t do it, don’t. God will make it easier for you!”
3. “Halelo”—“The goal has been reached.” This song discusses a love that is complete. The man is saying, “We have reached our destination,” we have reached what we wanted out of this love so enjoy it, you deserve it. The girl responds with, “Yes, indeed we have, and we did it together!”
4. “Fagfagley”—This song discusses family, the household and the problems they face. The title refers to a lady who talks or gossips a lot. The woman is called “fagfagley” because her husband has another wife but she wants more than what she is supposed to traditionally get; she wants more than what the other wife is getting. Or she demands things the other wife does not even receive. The guy also calls her “fagfagley” because she speaks constantly and her words have no limit whatsoever. She says to her husband whatever comes to her mind.
5. “Ilawad Cashaqa”—“Hold on to this love with me.” This song discusses the beginning of a relationship between a boy and a girl. The singer is reflecting on the time that he and his love first met. “I used to heal my heart with questions and no responses, you didn’t help me or call on me and you didn’t invite me into your heart.” “Wafayo,” he sings, “I'm coming out making it clear just once, help me with this love. Let’s settle this once and for all!”
6. “Garsore Waa Ilaah”—“God is the judge, only God judges fair.” This song discusses a couple and the consequences of love. In thinking about her decision to be in love, the girl says, “I'm up for the journey but are you going to help me with this decision?” She is up for the journey but asks the guy for help along the way. She wonders how many people have made plans to live together and love one another but have never reached their goal and end up separated.
7. “Aada Fududey Iga Ahow”—This song discusses a guy who has remarried after having divorced the mother of his children. His ex-wife returns to him saying she wants to get back together and she apologizes. He thinks about it and says to his new wife, “I love my kids and I have been through so much with them and my family so, please, I can't leave them and be with you any more so please go.”
8. “Tajir Waa Ilaah”—“God is perfect, God is complete.” This song is talking about how humans are powerless, i.e. one day you have something, the next day you have nothing. If you have something today, don't look down on the less fortunate. Additionally, one should feel sympathy for women and be nice to them. The guy in the song feels that without obstacles, every aspect of love can be attained. Decisions produce the best outcomes if they are made together.
9. “Dholey”—Dholey is a girl’s name. In the song, the guy says, “You have stolen my heart and made me fall in love and now I am in pain. Dholey, without you the ground makes me dizzy. I hear voices from the sky, and I wouldn't trade you for the world.” The guy says, “Look at how we share the same birthplace and have all these other things in common. But you have left me like this, in love and in pain. You gave me false promises and left me out in the cold without warning.”
10. “Amiina Awdaay”—The title means “Where is Amina?” (Amina is a girl’s name.)
The singer is looking for her and talking about his feelings towards this girl. He asks, “Where is Amina? I couldn't find her. I believe in her and
I didn't forget my promise to her. I would be happy to marry her!”
11. “Dooyo”—Dooyo is a type of traditional Somali dance. The lady is singing, “I am warning you guys, I hear drums playing for me and it’s healing me and I won't resist. It’s my medicine. Dooyo has taken me over and I won’t stop dancing!”
released March 19, 2013
Thanks: Abdinur Daljir, Sahra Dawo, Jibril Mohamed, Sanaag, Christopher Welz (distribution), Daniel Murphy (design), Jessica Thompson (mastering), Amin Amir (cover art) and Atousa Farahani.