transport[s] our hearts and minds to Mogadishu of the 1970s and 1980s, when the coastal capital glistened as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, when wine and cosmopolitanism flowed freely
This music was never made available for mass release. As a result, most of it has never been heard outside Somalia and the immediate region.
Something remarkable has taken place in the last few years: Somalia has reasserted itself.
Indeed, challenges still remainand they are grave. But we should not discount how far Somalia and Somali people have come from two decades of civil war, and current ongoing hardships.
The Somali diaspora in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere in East Africa have used the digital tools their disposalnamely YouTube and blogsto upload their collections. This cultural assertion is a cornerstone of the Somali revival.
In 2015, Berlin-based researched and collector Nicolas Sheikholeslami nimbly scoured the Somali niches of the internet to compile Au Revoir Mogadishu Vol.1, a viral mixtape of Somali music from before the war.
Made speechless by the mixtapes other-worldly sounds, Ostinato Records and Sheikholeslami traveled to the Horn of Africa after catching word of an archive of over 10,000 cassettes and reels, painstakingly preserved through the war by intrepid radio operators and dedicated vanguards of Somali culture. What we discovered is difficult to articulate. But what the music revealed was an untold history of the Somali music belt, which stretches from Djibouti to Hargeisa, all the way down to Mogadishu. Somali culture transcends artificial borders and groupings.
For the last year, from Minnesota to Dubai, we have tracked down the musicians, songwriters, composers, former government bureaucrats, and quirky personalities that colored Somali music life.
A full-fledged compilation album of the best cuts we discovered in this archive is slated for release this year exclusively on Ostinato Records.
But because we could not wait to share what we have been reveling in, we have put together a little taste of one of the most hidden music cultures in the world. The sound quality of this recorded material also bear the scars of war, and you are hearing it in the same shape as we found it.