Hiddo Dhawr

03/04/2024Somaliland's Emblematic Chanteuse, Nurse and Cultural Activist Sahra Halgan Unveils Zealous Fourth Album

Last Friday marked the return of a true, yet still lesser known musical and cultural icon, the great chanteuse, nurse and activist Sahra Halgan. Hailing from Somaliland, a region in northwestern Somalia that declared its independence from the British protectorate in 1991 following a brutal civil war, but remains "unrecognised by the international community," Halgan continues to be one of the region's strongest voices in every respect. So before we dive into her latest 'work of heart' titled "HIDDO DHAWR", we best provide some context and give you a short introduction to this extraordinary story of hers.

Born Sahra Ahmed Mohamoud in Hargeisa in 1972 – the granddaughter of poet Hilaac Dheere – Sahra Halgan found her voice during adolescence, as the Somali civil war broke out and dictator Mohammed Siad Barre came to power. Amidst the fighting, she joined the Somali National Movement as a nurse, tending to injured combatants and singing for them, which eventually earned her the nickname 'Halgan' (Somali for 'fighter'). As the war and heavy bombings ensued, however, Halgan was granted political asylum and moved to Lyon in 1992. There she was forced to start from scratch and would play the occasional gig on the side, but music effectively took a back seat for the next two decades.

It was only in the mid 2010s that she founded her eponymous trio alongside French musicians Aymeric Krol (percussionist with BKO) and Maël Salètes (guitarist with the Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp and L'étrangleuse), releasing her second album "Faransiskiyo Somaliland" in 2015 and starring in the Chris Uberman film "Sahra Halgan Returns to Somaliland", which documented her return to Hargeisa in 2013. After relocating to the capital of the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland, she continued her passionate political activism in a tireless pursuit to rebuild her homeland and finally gain international diplomatic recognition. In 2018, she released her third album "WAA DARDARAN" (a polite Somali form of address used for the powerful) on Buda Musique alias Sahra Halgan – marking her international arrival – and now follows that up with "HIDDO DHAWR" ('preserve the culture'), which is also the name of the cultural centre she has meanwhile founded in Hargeisa.

"HIDDO DHAWR" is another zealous effort by Sahra Halgan and her collaborators, i.e. Aymeric Krol on drums, Maël Salètes on guitar and Régis Monte on keys. Over the course of twelve tracks, which combine strong desert blues influences with guitar-driven rock stylings and fresh, experimental tendencies, Halgan skilfully blends the modern with the traditional without falling for any clichés. "[It] is the fruit of a sincere search for authenticity and innovation, an unprecedented alliance between Somali song and original rock, thus enriching the most unexpected landscapes of the world music scene with her inspiration," and the versatile experience of her band. Her charismatic voice and entrancing delivery is always front and center and backed by a potent and engaging wall of sound to help transport her message to the global dancefloors and beyond.

On the musical side of things – as we continue to search for the exact translations to her songs to better understand their meaning – we feel as though "HIDDO DHAWR" successfully furthers the playful'let's push things forward' approach of its predecessor, in what will hopefully make Sahra Halgan's cultural significance and singular artistry even more accessible to a wider audience and grant her the international acclaim she and her native Somaliland deserve. 

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom