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My Encounter with Abwaan Hadrawi: An Enchantment

by Ugaaso Boocow (Casha Cadey)
Friday, December 05, 2008

One of my greatest achievements thus far is having been bestowed with the honour of delivering a speech to one of Somalia’s most renowned poets: Maxamad Ibraahim Warsame ‘Hadraawi’! The Americans have their Poe, the Persians their Ferdowsi, the Italians their Dante, the Russians their Pushkin, the Brits their Kipling—the Somali’s then, have Mudane Hadraawi!  The poet Hadraawi, I can say with unprecedented confidence and temerity is truly waa-weynka, an embellished icon, and his work both metaphorical and literal—is effortlessly symbolic!

I remember how anxious I was when I walked on that stage.  My heart was somersaulting in my chest, my feet felt as though they were rooted to the ground, and had it not been for my natural habit of laughing off my nervousness—I’d be at loss for words, such is the spell being in the presence of Hadraawi casts upon us ordinary, little people! 


Abwaan Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame (Hadrawi)

I held the microphone firmly and shot him an appreciative sidelong glance to which he replied “Hello, how are you!” I was caught off guard, my Lord thought I, he speaks English impeccably! (I didn’t know he spoke a word of English!), so I wanted to astonish him as he had flabbergasted me “Adeero” I began, “waa kuu raayaa, nabbadeydaan ahay! I’m doing wonderful, I’m feeling great!” A smile spread across his lips—he was visibly repressing a rising boisterous laughter!

You know, people often ask me how I became interested in Suugaanta Somaaliyeed as though I’m not Somali! Truly, there’s not a definite, concrete answer in which I can grant such a dense question. I was raised by my grandparents, with whom one of them I still live with—that should explain a lot! The Somali culture deems children who were cultivated by their grandparents as inadequate adults—I was told “yahooy, naag WEYN oo WEYN baa tahay, you’re a big woman”, whenever I threw a tantrum—even as a child!

Children like myself were made to rapidly mature, I was left without a say or ownership of childhood whilst still a teething toddler! I can’t remember playing in the play ground nor can I recall having playmates. I still really don’t have associates aside from my books, in which my closest confidant is my pen and my Somali literature! When you are made to leave your Native land whether by force or choice, you try laboriously not to forget the most microscopic of details you’ve left behind, and in doing so you try desperately to recreate what you feel you’ve left behind when you arrive in a foreign, forlorn, forsaken land—this I learned from Milan Kundera, the famous Czech novelist who fled Czechoslovakia to France due to the Soviet invasion of his homeland in August 1968, is a practice known as simulacra.

Watch Ugaaso A. Boocow on Video
We’ve left behind an entire culture, a way of life with rich and riveting customs is still slowly depleting, vanishing before our very eyes, and with knowledge of that, I taught myself from an early age how to read and write Somali. I think I started this as a project to see how many languages I could master, and along the way I learned (given the myriad examples listed in our literature) how to ‘love’ my birthright, Somalia. I feel the liniment to battle the depression associated with nostalgia is hunger and thirst for authenticity, for motivation—please believe it!

I was shaking like a leaf when I finished my keynote speech. 1500 and plus people rose to give me a standing ovation. I recall (and if you see the video you’ll see as well) an elderly man to my right hand side in the audience attempting (with excruciating difficulty as he was being assisted) to rise—tall and proud equally fitting is pompous look, and applaud deafeningly in homage not to me, but the most waddani, patriotic of all Somali poets: Hadraawi. That moment had me sold! I wanted to silence the roaring crowd with a wave of my jewelled hand and declare like Martin Luther King did on August 28 1963 in front of the Lincoln Memorial: “Walaxaan ku riyooday! I had a dream’—but, sadly the epiphany was just a mirage!

The moment was awe-inspiriting. I have never ever, ever seen so much Somali people rise simultaneously for the same cause, except of course during salaatul-Eid! The women ululated vehemently, and the men—they clapped like their life depended on it! It had then just sunk in. I’m really here—right next to Hadraawi! I thought, amazed and sceptical. I prepared to bolt off stage in panic (I’m a bit claustrophobic, and timid around celebrities) when, our poet actually reached out to me! He patted the crown of my head with such gentle a cupped hand that I was sure all his intelligence and wit were transferring or rubbing off on me! We then conducted a short conversation:

Hadraawi: Adeero, caawa waa i farxad gelisay, khudbada waad ku mahadsantahay!

Aniga: Adeero Hadraawiyoow farxadeydaa ka badan!!!!!! Adaana mudan!

He chuckles, continuing, “Adeero..”

Aniga: “Haa adeero...”

Hadraawi: “Adeero Libaaxad baa tahay! Ilaahaay ha ku daayo. Amiin dheh. Adeero magacaa ‘Ugaaso’ waad u qalantaa! Guul Ugaasaay Ugaaso baa u tahay ogoow! Hawsha meeshaani ka sii wad, aniguna wax allaa iyo wixii aan kaaga caawin karo waan kaaga caawinaa. (because I had told him I wanted to write novels and implored him to assist me in translating his compositions into English…)…The rest is history!

The poet Hadraawi who tops the chart of my favourite poets (just under him lies Cabdulqaadir Xirsi ‘Yamyam’ and Maxamad Xaashi Dhamac ‘Gaarriye’)—is a literary genius.
A poet galloping far beyond his time, the usage of Romanism can be noted in his work far more than any living Somali poet (I say living because Yamyam A.U.N also displayed, quite outstandingly, this rare talent).

It must be said, Hadraawi’s work illuminates the genre of Romance and the use of melodrama so prevalent in Somali Literature (especially love songs) with fine, sharp detail which can be noted in songs such as my favourite of all time ‘Cajabeey cajiibeey’. Most Somali songs should be noted are eponymous—Cajabeey cajiibeey is the only song in all of Hadraawi’s compositions that is epithetic, in which a phrased is used in place of a name, cajab is a quality which takes its namesake and purpose after Cajiibeey!

In his Cajabeey cajiibeey, the narrator, who in this case is the singer with one of the world’s most ethereal, celestial voices rightfully earning the pseudonym Boqorkii Codka, the King of Voice and a throne in the hearts of all Somalis—Maxamed Suleymaan Tubeec, complaints in a soliloquy to his audience about a woman whose love threatens his capacity to function, explaining that she seized and dominates his ruminations, that she’s possessed him indefinitely:

‘Cawo iyo ayaaneey,
Caqligaad xadeysaa!’

‘Night and day,
my mind you invade!’

He continues juxtaposing her striking appearance to that of nature, this is called imaginary, a literary device our distraught narrator is using to express the way in which she delights his eyes adjacent to everything else. The usage of metaphors can also be noted in the lines depicting the way in which her splendour is at harmony with his surroundings:

“Sida geed cal iyo buur
Carra hodan ku yaalloo!’,

“...as though a mount
on prosperous ground...” 

My favourite part of the song in its entirety is when our narrator confesses at once to his mushrooming madness, revealing in the lines below his overwhelming obsession, the bottomless pit of his desperate soul that longs to be loved:

‘Haddaan lay cadaabayn
Rabbi ii cadhoonayn
Dadku inuu ku caabudoo
... sow kuma canaanteen’

‘If I were to not be punished
if my Lord were not to be enraged,
You, the people shall worship
...wouldn’t I have proclaimed?’

Note: the translation is my own, thus copyrighted.

In a word, the above poem speaks delicately as though not to alienate the audience member who haven’t experienced xanuunka jacaylka iyo mowjada caashaqa ah—the ascending and capsizing waves of love and admiration (though I doubt such a member inhabited Somalia during the time of this songs infancy). It must be said Hadraawi’s poems leave you at loss for words as they rise in your throat only to abseil in your gut! They grasp you determinately by the nape of the neck and toss you into an Elysian field where love is in brimming abundance, yaa i geeyo!

In short, I’m extremely gleeful to have met him—to be 21 years old and have met and still communicate with the likes of such an accomplished and acclaimed literary giant as Hadraawi is quite astounding! He is to me what Nikolai Gogol was to Fyodor Dostoevsky, what Dostoevsky was to Russia—inspiration!

Ugaaso Boocow (Caasha Cadey)

The writer is a 4th year student @ York University, Toronto, Ontario
for feedback email Ugaaso at:
[email protected]
Toronto, Canada.

101 comment(s)
More comments  
    Erigavo @ 12/18/2008 3:30 PM EST
 I agree Ugaaso Quruxleey that poems and songs should the vehicle of solidarity and we must take advantage of its power of appeal and wisdom.
Abwaan Siciid Saalax should be your second gifted poet to invite for his literary award achievement. He even co-authored the first book in the early 70s with Hadrawi.
    nomadic1 @ 12/14/2008 9:31 AM EST
Walaal soo dhawoow. Afsoomaali waa la wada fahmaa waana la qori karaa. waxaa loo baahan yahay in la isku dhiiri galiyo. Soo dhawoow walaal.
    mohamed nassir @ 12/14/2008 8:55 AM EST
raa`yi gatha aad ayu u haboonyahay.
you are very welcome to contribute on issues in afkena hooyo. after all, we can express our true feelings  in our mother tongue.
    camel girl @ 12/13/2008 6:49 PM EST
 Oo never ever use words that do not make a sense...   The world is in a dirty pasture and a lot has been stolen from the human kind and what are the world rich upon or what happen to the rest.  Bush how far are the Americans going to keep you dirty dusty.  I so it myself and not good world humans.
    fiqicigaal @ 12/12/2008 5:55 PM EST
You are the cream of the cake in every sense, you are inspiration to all generations and i take my hat off for you sis!
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