Import / Export Mogadishu

22/03/2019Reviving The Sounds And Rekindling The Spirit Of Somalia's Golden Era

The Somali port city and capital of Mogadishu used to be home to a bustling music scene from the late 1960s up until the early 1990s, "teeming with pop and folk musicians whose influences spanned several genres of Somali traditional music alongside influences from abroad". Perhaps one of the most renowned groups of the era was the Dur-Dur Band who, free of government constraints, decided not to address politics or spread subversive messages, but rather concentrate on emphasising love and culture in their music, combining funk, disco and soul to a unique whole.

After going through several lineup changes, the Dur-Dur Band was most popular in the late 1980s and had released almost a dozen recording by the time civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991. The group disbanded and emigrated first to Djibouti and later to America.

"Today, only the audiotapes from the radio archives in Mogadishu and Hargeysa – saved from the war years and the music ban – testify to this rich musical heritage." In 2013, for instance, Awesome Tapes From Africa reissued the band's 1987 tape recording "Volume 5", which you can buy/stream in full on Bandcamp. While in 2017, Ostinato Records released its Grammy-nominated compilation "Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa".

Now building on the Dur-Dur Band's legacy is the London-based Dur-Dur Band International, composed of musicians from the Somali diaspora and reviving the legendary sounds and the vibrant spirit of the pre-war Somalia's golden era. The band is set to perform live in Berlin this Saturday, March 23rd, at Haus der Kulturen der Welt as part of the current "Find the File" festival. 

To get you into the mood, we would like to call your attention to a great new mixtape by Nicolas Sheikholeslami for Ostinato Records, which you can listen to in the SoundCloud player above. Entitled “Import / Export Mogadishu – Up & Down The Pentatonic” the selection features, among others, the voice of Xabib Sharaabi, "a key Somali figure of the 1990s", who will also be performing live on Saturday.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom