People sing and play along gently, always respecting the direction and authority of the master singers. When the song culminates, or when the singer ad-libs the double entendre lyric variation, they explode in laughter and shouting. There is no amplification. To hear the singer, musicians keep the volume down while maintaining the high energy.
Traditionally, the nomads could not afford to carry instruments on the camels, so they learned to beat on the nearest thing that sounded good; today teacups and bottles are perfect percussion instruments - clear but not loud. The musicians follow every little sign and wink as they support the lead singer, interpreting the sorrow and joy of the people. The language and music of Somalia is a mixture of Africa and Arabic influences. Trade and migration of African and Arabic nomadic tribes has contributed to the cultural exchange for centuries.
West Indian lutes and frame drums found their way to the region via Egypt, long before Islam. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Arabic conquest and migration to Sudan and the horn of Africa completed the gradual Islamisation of the area. Most songs are performed in unison: the Arabic oud is central but it is displayed in a distinctly Somali style. The scales are predominantly pentatonic but, especially when sung, they often include embellishments, inflections, and tuning strongly influenced by Arabic microtonal scales.
The result is an appealing hybrid music and songs that make Westerners think of a special Somali Blues. In several Muslim societies music is accepted but holds no high status. There is a tendency to separate religious forms of music from social music. The Somalis, always a very pragmatic and practical people, revere Islam and love music.
In recent years, Somali musicians have adapted influences from Indian, Chinese, and Western music. Their repertoires are a blend of traditional songs, urban dance "Jazz" music, and vaudeville type performances mixed with comedy and satire. This album consists of a pure form of traditional music, which is at the heart of Somali cultural and social life. Maryam Mursal is the star of the Waaberi ensemble.
More than any other Somali artist, she is capable of blending musical influences and was the first woman to play Somali Jazz. She started playing at nightclubs in 1966: here she heard the music of Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Antonio Carlos Jobim and decided to incorporate these contemporary influences in her own music. It has taken much strength and courage to be a public female figure in a society like Somalia. People love and respect her, but under dictatorship you cannot mess with fire.
This kept her from performing for two years because she spoke against the Powers That Be. Typically, she chooses to sing songs that have hidden political meaning. Maryam takes her responsibility very seriously, as she knows that she is speaking for her people, but still she is not afraid to criticize her audience; the men are always reminded to treat women properly. Maryam required even more courage to flee from the civil war.
With her five children she walked for months under extreme conditions through the deserts to Kenya, back up through Ethiopia and Somali to Djibouti. Finally she reached Denmark, where she lives and works. On this album, Waaberi is joined by Egyptian master percussionist Hossam Renzy. They had a lot of fun together, proving that Somali and Middle Eastern Music is still closely related.
These performers are the elite of the National Theatre - once a great troupe of musicians, dancers and actors before civil war destroyed everything. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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