Dur-Dur Band – Volume 5
Media: M (2xLP)
Double LP of the legendary Somali pop-funk group’s tape, made in Mogadishu in 1989.
From the late 1960s until the early 1990s, the particularly vibrant music scene in Mogadishu was teeming with pop and folk musicians whose influences spanned several genres of Somali traditional music alongside influences from abroad.
Dur-Dur Band’s music emerges from a time when Somalia’s distinctive contribution to the creative culture in the Horn of Africa was clear and abundant–hundreds of recordings made at the Somali National Theatre, Radio Mogadishu and other studios, combined with cherished clubs like Juba and Jazeera and al-Curuuba Discotheque created a backdrop for a flourishing music scene.
Bands like Dur-Dur, Iftin, Shareero, on one hand, embodied inspiration from international pop. Everything from Michael Jackson and Phil Collins and Bob Marley and Santana, as well as James Brown and American soul music in general, were fair game. Equally important were ensembles whose focus on the more traditional side of Somali music. These groups helped develop a continuity with pre-colonial musical practices and oral literature that persist in popularity to this day. Seminal ensembles Waberi and Horsed, for example, generated a legacy of masterworks and from them emerged seasoned musicians whose efforts rippled through the music scene. Both aspects of recent music history can still be heard on the lively array of Somali music, news video websites, and of course YouTube.
After going through a few iterations through the 80s, by 1987 Dur-Dur’s line-up featured singers Abdinur Daljir and Sahra Dawo, as well as [band list and instrumentation here]. This instrumentation was the predominant format of pop groups at the time, eventually almost completely supplanted by synthesizers and sequencers over the next few years. Dur-Dur Band managed to release almost a dozen recordings before emigrating to Djibouti and eventually settling in America.
Dur-Dur Band, a so-called “private band” not beholden to government pressure to sing about political topics and disinterested in producing subversive messages, practiced a love- and culture-oriented lyricism. Government-sponsored bands like those of the military and the police forces, as well as many of the well-known folk musicians, made songs chiefly political and patriotic in nature.
In a country that has since been shattered by civil war, unstable security and heated clan divisions, music and the arts suffered from stagnation and many of the most active musicians left the country. Music became nearly outlawed in Mogadishu in 2010. Incidentally, more than ten years after Volume 5 was recorded Radio Mogadishu, the state-run broadcaster was the only station in Somalia to resist the ban on music that was enacted by Al-Shabab.
Dur-Dur Band is a powerful and illustrative lens through which to appreciate one small facet of the incredible sounds being created in Somalia before the country’s stability took a turn.
Despite challenges, Somali music of all kinds persists both in the Horn of Africa region and abroad in the Somali diaspora worldwide, from Ohio to Minneapolis to Oslo to Sydney. Artists have since begun to return to Mogadishu, which bodes well for the future of music and expression in Somalia.