14 September 2007

Waayaha Cusub: Somalis Raise Their Voices

Somalia-mapImage via WikipediaSomalia isn't a particularly pleasant place right now, and people are desperate to leave. The UNHCR today reported on 56 people who have died trying to cross from Somalia to Yemen in the past 10 days, while another group attempting to leave by boat were beaten and doused with acid before being cast adrift at sea.

Which helps explain why Mohammed Abdi Jamal snuck across the Somali border with Kenya a few weeks ago, as detailed in a story in today's Christian Science Monitor. But Jamal wasn't just fleeing from something...he was headed to a new life, inspired by sounds he'd heard from a musical group comprised mostly of young Somali refugees living in Nairobi. Now he's singing and rapping with the group Waayaha Cusub ("New Era") about some serious social issues including AIDS, freedom of speech, and women's rights. Their song "Freedom" denounces the decision of the Somali Islamic Courts Union to ban music and impose a strict dress code for women.

Islamists, in turn, have made no secret of their dislike for the band, making public performances difficult. One band member, Jamila Jamma, was attacked by members of her own family who disapproved of her work with the group; as a result she bears a scar on her cheek. Reports say one member (possibly Jamma?) has quit the band and is in hiding after receiving threats.

About the group's politically charged song "Somalia," Jamma told the BBC "
We are not happy with what is happening back home, in fact we have recorded a thought-provoking song that we hope will bring our leaders back to their senses."

The group, which was formed in 2004, persists despite the opposition and has recorded four albums, at least 14 music videos, and the soundtrack to the movie
Ali & Awrala. They also record a comedy radio program that's aired in Somalia every Friday. I can't find a source for their music anywhere on the Web -- if you know of one, please leave the info in a comment.

[mp3 sample] Waayaha Cusub: Dadkii Yaa Xasuuqay

Waayaha Cusub on youtube: video1 , video 2
Video slideshow of Waayah Cusub

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