When many people think of Somalia and the Somali, they think of a poverty-stricken nation torn by war and military oppression. Not many people will know (or believe) that it was/is a hotbed for classic African music that was lost over time, but is now beginning to find some relevance again. Many sources credit the 1930s as the birth of Somali music when they still under British rule.
Modern Somali music began with the balwo style, with Abdi Sinimo, a prominent musician of the 40s leading the charge. This style of music went on to evolve and paved the way for the Heelo style of Somali music which featured artiste playing the rhythms, melodies and harmonies on ouds, violins, accordions and other instruments.
Abdi’s was never forgotten and his passion for music earned him the moniker, “The Father of the Modern Somali Song”.
The 50s to the 80s was a period in which Somali music/Musicians went deeper into their roots and popularized more native genres of music. The music during this time incorporated the use of traditional instruments such as nasaro (high ritual drum), madhuube (thumb piano), fuugwo (trumpet) shareero (lute), muufe (horn) and seese (one-chord violin) to make the music more local. However, there were occasions where these local instruments made way for the the guitar, sax, keyboard and drums.
This helped grow the Somali music scene beyond its shores and it slowly became recognized by neighboring nations.
Some of the popular acts of this period included: Ali Feiruz, Mohamed Nahari, Ahmed Ali Egal, Maryam Mursal and Waayaha Cusub and bands such as Waaberi and Horseed.
The 70s were an interesting time for Somali music as a new regime brought on by a coup in 1969 saw Nationalism rise and the arts were supported by the new regime. The government at the time owned music groups as they favored a Socialist political ideology and even female singers were encouraged to hone their craft. Music from the 70s had to be hidden underground at the Hargeisa where it has been preserved by the Red Sea Foundation.
The 80s saw the rise of what many call Somali funk with bands like Dur Dur dominating the scene with their party-starting spirit which is even still apparent today even with how much time has passed.
Somali music today is experiencing some sort of renaissance thanks to acts such as Sahra Halgan, the Shego Band, and a Somali Bantu band known as Walinja.
While a lot of the old Somali music might be lost in time, there is more than enough evidence today to show that it is certainly not dead.