Somali poets and musicians have a played a major role in several aspects of society, including the protests of the 1950s that challenged the regimes of corrupt local and colonial powers. In the wake of independence from British and Italian rule in 1960, the newly established Republic of Somalia recognized the power of artists’ voices and formed several government-supported music and dance troupes to forge the regime’s national vision. Among them was the Waaberi Group. Waaberi, meaning “Dawn,” featured the most talented singers, musicians, and dancers in the country. Singers performed with live instrumentation, highlighting the importance of live music in the Somali tradition.
1970’s - Civil War
The 70s and 80s were an especially fertile and innovative period in the history of Somali music. The global rise of funk and disco brought in horns, guitars, and keyboards for a funky, pop sound, giving rise to a booming night club scene in Mogadishu and Hargeisa. Despite these global influences, Somali music remained uniquely its own, with a continued emphasis on poetic lyrics and deep roots in traditional musical forms. A number of traditional instruments, namely the reeme (roaring drum), shagal (metal hoe-blades), shunuuf (ankle rattles), shambal (wooden clappers), malkad (flute), and sumaari (double clarinet), while often reproduced on keyboard synthesizers, are sounds that continue to shape Somali music today.
As political instability increased in Somalia, artists’ lives were among the first to be impacted. As vocal leaders who often spoke out against corruption and oppression, their lives were in danger and their work was censored. When civil war broke out in 1991, many artists and families fled Somalia. The chaos and instability that has reigned in the decades since has nearly destroyed much of the country’s music traditions. Live performances and instrumentation, once so central to the practice of Somali music, has suffered the most in the wake of this conflict.
Today, Somali music flourishes around the globe as Somali musicians of the diaspora build careers in other areas of Africa, the United States, Canada, the UK, and across Scandinavia. Among these are Cherrie, Amaal Nuux, and FAARROW, all young women artists of Somali descent who live and work around the world. Cherrie is a Swedish rap, soul, and pop artist whose parents left Somalia to escape the civil war. Amaal Nuux and FARROW’s sisters Siham and Iman Hashi moved from their birthplace Mogadishu to Canada and have made their careers as soul and pop artists.
In the international diaspora, most Somali singers work with Somali producers to create electronic backing tracks that they take on tour or to perform weddings and cultural events. There are very few live Somali bands anywhere in the world, though FARROW’s recent collaboration with Astralblak is contributing the slow revival of live performances. The emergence of YouTube in the early 2000s has created a platform for these artists to share their music publicly, freely, and throughout the world, without the need for a market-based industry to record and distribute their work. Many artists forgo albums to release singles through videos on YouTube and independently promote their work through social media channels. The most popular artists’ videos receive hundreds of thousands of views practically overnight and are growing a global audience for Somali music
Midnimo Means Unity
Somalis in Minnesota
Minnesota has become home to North America’s largest Somali diaspora community . The evidence of a thriving Somali community is visible around the Twin Cities, from North America’s only museum dedicated to Somali culture on Lake Street, the Somali Museum of Minneapolis, to The Cedar’s own neighborhood that has been nicknamed “Little Mogadishu.”
What is Midnimo?
Midnimo, the Somali word for "unity," is a program that brings Somali musicians from around the world to Minnesota for residencies and events that increase understanding of Somali culture through music. Launched in Minneapolis in 2014 by The Cedar and Augsburg College, the program has now grown throughout the state in partnership with Minnesota State University, Mankato Department of Music Performance Series and The Paramount Center for the Arts in St. Cloud.
FAARROW in Minnesota
Faarrow has spent the last month in residency with Midnimo in the Twin Cities, creating and connecting with the surrounding Somali community. Catch them live at The Cedar this Friday, April 5th!
FAARROW is currently in Minneapolis for a Midnimo residency, and will be performing at The Cedar on April 5th. Learn more about the sisters, their sound, and their message, and get tickets for their show here!
Midnimo, a Cedar program that features the world's leading Somali musical artists in the form of month-long residencies, presents FAARROW, the project of sisters Iman and Siham Hashi. FAARROW’s sound fuses African rhythms with modern production resulting in a drum-heavy fusion of hip-hop and pop music. For their show in Minneapolis, FAARROW will be joined by live backing band Astralblak for an incredible night of contemporary Somali music.