Tears are in the eyes of Xabiib Sharaabi, nicknamed the Somali King of Pop when he entered the stage of Berlin’s HKW. It is a mix of nostalghia, pain and joy. Like many Somalis he had been deprived overnight of both glamour and friends, the war in his homeland had sent him into exile. The glamorous discos and beachfront stages Mogadishu had once been famous for, had disappeared as the city was bombed to the ground. The King of Somali pop found himself stranded in Sweden, others like the members of Dur-Dur Band Int. ended up in London which until today has the largest Somali diaspora in Europe.
In the last decade many early recordings of Somalia’s funk, soul and disco era have been reissued. This record is not a reissue. The Berlin Session – is the first studio album of its kind since the golden days of Mogadishu came to a halt three decades ago. It is the living proof that Somali music is hot, funky and (!) well alive.
The record captures a historic reunion which took place in 2019 in Germany’s capital Berlin. London-based Dur-Dur Band Int. an eight-piece powerhouse of Somali live- music unites with three legendary Somali singers: Xabiib Sharaabi, Faduumina Hilowle and Cabdinur Allaale for a concert at Berlin’s HKW. Fueled with a restored sense of pride, the freshly reunited musicians decided to get together in a Neukölln studio for two amazing days of recording.
Female vocalist Faduumina Hilowle opens the album with an invitation to kickass: “Let’s shake off the dust, boys!” (Inta ka hurguf). Grooving with such a strong accent on the off-beat, any non-Somali listener may think of Reggae. But when you ask the musicians, they tell you: “They took it from us! It’s Dhaanto! It’s our rhythm”. Originating from the Ogaden region (now in neighbouring Ethiopia’s borders), Dhaanto dates back to the era of “clap & chant”. Some say it is an imitation of the camel’s bounce. Xabiib Sharaabi was once nick-named Somalia’s King of Pop for the body language and magnetising voice with which he incorporated the latest global musical trends - even recording two disco albums entirely in English. On the album Xabiib chooses to sing his Somali adaptation of “Lady” originally by Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. Not unlike the Motown Sound of Detroit and Kingston’s Studio One: a small scene of musicians were fueling that new Somali Disco scene in Mogadishu. Cabdinur Allaale, the third vocalist on the album comes from neighbouring Djibouti. In the heydays the leader of then famous Sharaf Band was a frequent visitor, flying back and forth between Mogadishu, Hargeisa, Kismayo & Djibouti entertaining his fans on the Horn of Africa.
Dur-Dur Band Int. ‚The Berlin Session‘ brings the spirit, joy and hope of this era back: In the last decades Somalis stars have lived among us, spread all over the world, it is time to see them step into the limelight again.