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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Commentary : Somali Music between Good and Goth; Tani waa waalli cas!

(Medeshi)- By Ahmed Hadeed - Since I’ll mostly be talking to Somali music fans, it would probably make great sense if I cleverly based this piece around a wise snippet from a Somali song. Alas, my anaemic knowledge in this area isn’t throwing out any appropriate lyrics. Will “Markaan da'da jiray 15” do?

Photo of Abdi Good  (Web image )

I have recently read an article by Bashir Goth where he heroically defends Somali music and culture from the encroaching threat of the Wahhabi Mullahs and reveals to us - the silent majority – that these Mullahs are nothing but fifth columns for Al Shabab, ISIS, Taliban and every Jihadi cult in the world. Bashir Goth is great, he’s a prolific and (often) entertaining writer. Yet in this article of his and all the others that talk about Somali Music one can’t help but get the feeling he’s singing about bygone days (markuu da’da jiray…..).
I have also come across various video clips by Abdi Good where, he too, gallantly defends and attempts to straighten the path of Somali music. Good’s videos are full of memorable catch phrases, funny exclamations and endless lamentations about the demise of Somali culture.
The aim is the same, to preserve Somali music and culture (the two are interchangeable in the minds of both men). However, where Goth chooses eloquence and “intellectuality” to get his point across, Good opts for the rough but very effective “tollaay”. Goth paints vivid pictures of his younger days with a peaceful and happy Somalia. He obsesses about women’s dress, men’s manliness and the twirling, spitting and altogether psychedelic Mullahs of his ‘good old days’. He uses this lovely (and almost mythical) picture in comparison to today’s poverty, war and extreme faith. But is he being fair in seeming to blame all Somalia’s current ills on Al Shabab or Wahabi Mullahs?
Abdi Good loves Somali music and spends a lot of his time listening to it, discussing it and criticising it. Therefore he can’t be classed as a Wahhabi (or at least not according to Goth’s understanding). However, Abdi Good despises naughty lyrics and video clips. Like the Wahhabis Goth is riling against, Good questions the upbringing of some female singers and actresses in video clips. He often asks where their families are and why isn’t the Somali community protecting our delicate daughters from the evils of Music clips. 
Crude Good wants censorship, he wants to listen to and view Somali music that only adheres to what he and he alone considers decent. Good comes from the same generation as Goth. Both talk of “Dhaqan” but one wants to ban Mullahs and the other wants to ban artists. Goth sensationalises his argument by warning of an active Jihad against music and linking it to the savages of Al Shabab and ISIS even when history shows that the debate over Music has been raging for centuries, in fact long before the founder of the Wahhabi cult was even born. In his zeal to protect and defend Somali music he employs the effective but very tiresome methods of Al Shabab in pointing his finger at some hidden and clandestine powers hell bent on destroying Somali Music. Al Shabab blame the CIA and mysterious Zionist organisations, Goth blames nameless Mullahs who use phone conferences and pseudonyms to hide their names from the authorities. Do they really need to go through all this trouble just so they can persuade Hibo Nuura not to sing? (I personally wanted to ask that female singer with the blonde afro to stop singing but I’ll now take Goth’s hint and call myself Abu Kaban before I phone her and tell her to stop torturing us all).
Funnily enough, I am (for the most part) in agreement with both Good and Goth. I agree with Goth that singers should be free to sing without any coercion or threats. I also agree with Good that bad songs should be ridiculed. Nonetheless, I think Goth insults all Somali artists when he places the blame at the feet of the Mullahs. For if he truly wants a free Somali world, as most his articles prove, he should allow the Mullahs the freedom to persuade, convert and convince whomever they want. Hibbo Nuura is over sixty and is old enough to make her own mind up. Besides, the future of Somali music does not lie in the hands of washed up artists such as her. At any rate, what stops Goth from setting up his own teleconferences to counter this existential threat to Somali music? It worked for the Mullahs.
When Good watches video clips showing barley dressed young men and women he calls for such clips to be banned and begs Somali governments to severely deal with such filth. But who says such clips are filthy? Goth’s golden age of Somali music had worse things in it and was more titillating than the tepid pictures of young topless men tweaking their own nipples in front of mirrors or girls writhing in beds. Who sets the bar for what is acceptable and decent, Good or Goth? 
Daahir ya Shamis!
By Ahmed Hadeed ( Submitted by RM)