Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa


The 15 tracks on this compilation are taken from the Red Sea Cultural Centre’s extensive tape archive in Hargeisa, and capture the multitude of sounds and influences that informed Somalia’s Golden Era. Opening “Buuraha U Dheer” sounds like it should be part of a Bollywood soundtrack, with a dramatic crescendo of synths and Nimco Jamaac’s emotion filled vocals elevating the track to ethereal heights, until bass and percussion lock into a leisurely groove — I can’t help but think of swaying to this at a breezy beachfront bar along Mogadishu’s riviera. There’s a reggae-like bounce to several tracks, but while Jamaican reggae was popular in 1970s and 80s Somalia, the rhythm’s origin is closer to home, in the folk music of the nomadic tribes from the Ogaden region. Bands like Dur Dur and Sharero incorporated these traditional Dhaanto rhythms into their disco and funk, creating a new sound that was distinctly Somali yet captured the outward looking and cosmopolitan feel of pre-war Somalia.

Megan Iacobini de Fazio