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New Music: Mogadisco –Dancing Mogadishu (Somalia 1972–1991)

By Troy Hasselman, January 31 2020 —

While the western conception of Somalia has been defined by the violence that has filled the country since it’s descent into civil war in the early 1990s, in a just world Somalia would be best known for its cultural exports. The country has produced some of Africa’s most renowned and important literature such as the poetry of Hadrawi and the novels of Nuruddin Farah. The music of the country has been tragically confined to its borders in recent decades with war allowing little chance for it to travel outside of Somalia.

In 2016, Samy Ben Redjeb, founder of the German-based reissue label Analog Africa — which has brought previously unheard music from all corners of the African continent to a global audience — travelled to the Somali capital of Mogadishu and began digitizing from the decades worth of reel-to-reel tapes stored in the archives of Radio Mogadishu, Somalia’s government-run radio station. The results are the sprawling Mogadisco – Dancing Mogadishu (Somalia 1972–1991) compilation which captures work from some of the most intriguing finds found in the Radio Mogadishu archives by Redjeb. 

These tracks take in rhythms and musical cues from around the world, from the tracks by the Dur-Dur Band which takes from funk, disco and the distinct styles of jazz found in neighboring Ethiopia. Omar Shoolil’s “Hab Isii” uses rhythms that you could hear on reggae and first-wave ska recordings and dresses them with a soulfulness uniquely his own. Iftin Band’s two tracks explore elements that could be heard on the early career work of Brian Eno or Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack work. Album highlight “Baayo” by Mukhtar Ramadan Idii has all the urgency and groove of classic-era funk-soul from Curtis Mayfield or Stevie Wonder but made half-a-world away.

Mogadisco is both a multicolored sonic portrait and a look into a real Somalia that is in stark contrast to the one portrayed on TV. The music on this record is endlessly danceable and creative and envelops the numerous influences from around the world on these tracks while translating as something wholly original. 

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