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In remembrance of The Hobollada Waaberi; The National Jem of Somali Literature

 By Avv. Abdiwahid Abdullahi Warsame

“Iyana waxaan kaga gudbaa gobey liicoo ha jabin”by Hassan Ganey      

To be frank I love politics. This is because politics is the battleground for ideas and discourse in order to engineer a good society. Unfortunately, the nation that brought me to this world has been in turmoil which decapitated the human capital. The human capital we are talking about here encompasses the provision of opportunities that can propel the great minds of our politicians. Religion and tribalism shrouded the fair play of politics. Both the former and latter share the dogmatic and unchanging aspects of life. As the decades waned, the Somali people were being divided by a rough and bloody political contest that aligned tribe against tribe. Religion also played its dividing role resulting factionalism within religious sects.  Yet they are united to shape the future that brings a decadent society.

The legendery Hoballada Waaberi-

We as a nation have failed to see both the enrichment of life and the concept of destiny as being intertwined. Therefore, I would like to shift this writing into talking about the beauty of Somali musicians and the fine arts that come with it. Suffice it to say, I really enjoy listening to the songs of Hobollada Waaberi. I can understand why the ullema, or the Islamic theologians do not encourage in the listening of music because it touches the hearts of man. Only the love of Allah should reside in the hearts of men.

I do agree that music touches the heart. It gives me a reflection of Allah’s greatness that created his men with different talents. Surely I am a very fervent Muslim and enjoy reading the Quran but I do not deny listening to the voices of the great singers to name some, like Khadra Dahir Cige, Sado Ali, Faduma Abdullahi Kahin (Maandeeq), Halimo Khalif Magol, Khadiijo Abdullahi Daleys, Xareedo Ismail Duniyo, Sahra Ahmed, Hibo Nuura,Faduma Qaasin Hillowle, Shankaroon Sagal, Qamar Abdullahi Harawa,  Seynab Cige, Amina abdullahi,Saynab Ali Baxsan, Hassan Adan Samatar, Abdinasir Moalin Saciid, Osman Gacanlow, Mohamed Ahmed Kuluc, Mohamed Saleban Tubec, Abdi tahliil. Ahmed Ali Egal, Abdikhadar hassan, Omar Hassan Rooraye, Omar dhuhle,  Salaad Derbi, Saalax Qassim and many others as the members of the national gem, Hobollada Waaberi.

Although there many people who cherish the Somali music, I however, do know one person in particular that shares the same eclectic taste in music, and that is Dr. Abdiweli Ali Gaas, the former Prime Minister of Somalia as well as the former President of Puntland. Perhaps it’s a matter of taste, but we have differing preferences. We are in utter agreement in that The Waaberi was a mystifying institution, not only as a collective, but as individual members as well. They ultimately captured the hearts and minds of the Somali people. Even in the midst of civil chaos, hopelessness, and despair, the industry of The Waaberi music uplifted the spirits of those who were suffering. The works of The Waaberi motivated the people into seek a dignified future worth living.  

We may blame former President Mohamed Siyad Barre on leading us to the eventual demise of the Somali nation. There might be elements of truth to that accusation, but I deeply believe that he was not only responsible for the collapse; there were other factors such as our social nature that pushed him to the breaking point. Conversely, the Siyad Barre administration has established one of the finest institutions that has ever come fruition, The Hobollada Waaberi. President Siyad Barre laid out a great vision in which he has driven the desire of the Somali people for building a great nation. The Waaberi materialized that vision with their artistic literature via concerts, songs and among many other forms. On that notion, let’s pause on the issue of the current politics and the Farmaajo administration which has dominated the media through its poor leadership and focus on the fine arts of The Waaberi band.

The Waaberi is comprised of many talented and artistic members who have taken root of the early 1970s Somali society. Most of The Waaberi has died and the remaining members are old and fragile to this day, but it is unforgiving to forget their greatness as individuals along with their theatrical performances. Much of my gratitude goes towards the judges who put together this group. I am still at awe at what the rigorous guidelines must have been on selecting members based on vocal and drama skills, but most importantly, their ability to show growth in their skills. Most men of the group were very tall, lean and witty. Words cannot express the beauty of the women in the band. They had all the qualities of what a woman should have which were politeness, shyness, and having a sense of pride. The women of the group had a sense of fashion that fit within the social norms of society. Both the men and women of the group have shown exceptional memory skills as they narrate extraordinarily long and rich poems within their performances. They have also demonstrated a sense of positive cohesion through respect and friendship amongst themselves.

Besides the singers, The Hobollada Waaberi had a superb set of musicians that understood the mechanics of stitching together the rhythm of voices and music. Members like Jim Sheikh Mumin, Abdikareem Jiir Qaaray, Abdulqadir Ali Egal, Daud Masxaf, Saciid Mohamed Xarawo, and among many others, demonstrated such talent to synchronizing the various proponents of band. I do know one thing; The Hobollada Waaberi had consultants that taught how to perform since we did not have a school of music. These consultants came from places such as the U.S.S.R, Egypt, and Sudan. It is clear that their performance was on the same level as a PhD academic in terms of knowledge, skill, and most importantly capturing the limelight of their field. They made our social aspects of life pleasant.

They had gargantuan egos to establish a great society, galvanizing the different aspects of society that has a dignified place in the Horn of Africa. The Waaberi attained a pinnacle success no other government institution has ever reached. They were the gateway of Somali music paving the way for future artists to follow. Young talents clamored to gain entry of what was to become the national identity in the form of a band. They were the symbol of our great nation.  Their music and poetry narratives seduced the night life atmosphere of Hargeisa all the way south to Mogadishu. People would crowd the theatres to watch the members perform in such magnificent fashion.  They were remarkably organized in their presentation with their shinning faces and elegant outfits. The serenity and the sensational love filled the auditorium in a spectacular manner. There is no other institution that seemingly captured the minds of the people in such a way that positively influences the lives of their listeners. This created a serene and sound environment which expelled any notion of negativity. Unfortunately, the disappearance of Hobollada Waaberi after 1991 was a colossal loss to the fabric of the Somali culture. Although, they left their resonating voices behind, their work will forever be encapsulated in the form of cassettes, VHS tapes, and YouTube videos. With that being said, we owe them a big thank you. You have done exceptionally well. 

As a society, we are not affluent in material wealth, but fortunately, we are rich in the production of the fine arts. It is hard to resist not listening to the voice of Abdulle Rage as he gave his much philosophical bravado on the meaning of life, society, and the aspiration of the Somali nation. Mohamed Gacal Hayo, who was blind, had a mind that could see clearer than any able person could have as he narrated his poetry. Mohamed Ibrahim Hadrawi was among the great poets that have entertained Somalis leaving behind a large impression about what the common man should offer to society. Another notable mention goes out to Mohamed Mooge who was not a member of The Waaberi band, but he had the same qualities of the actual members of The Waaberi. Unfortunately, he was killed as he was trying to topple the regime of Siyad Barre in the early 1980s which he had a strong resentment for. In his mind, Mooge was fighting to establish justice and build a proper society. He was a shining star of the early 1970s as he sung “Aduunyey xaalkaa ba’ Akhira Xagee Naga Jirta, Saxarlaay ha fududaan” and many other thought-provoking songs.

The pillars of The Waaberi were for sure, many, but the noteworthy ones included Mohamed Ali Kaariye, Mohamed Abdullahi Sangub, Hassan Abdullahi (Hassan Ganey), Osman Askari, Tukale, and Ahmed Naji Sacad. Most of these men were song writers, poets and dramatists. Equally, Ahmed Saleeban Bide, an important figure in the music industry, was not a member of The Waaberi but had left his mark in his remarkable song writing. He is currently living in Hargiesa as a frail old man though his mind is as sharp as ever. His primetime was when he made the production of ‘Sida Geed Caleenloo’ and many descriptive songs about nature. The groups of The Waaberi were not only entertainers, but they conveyed countless life lessons and morals of what it means to be a good Somali person. They have enticed the love and feelings of their fan base. Their songs appealed to the fight against Ethiopia in our efforts to reclaim the Ogaden Plateau. Their songs provided the willpower and spiritual backing for the brave men and women of that conflict. Songs, not limited to, but include “Mingiste Warla’idaa”, “Dhulka aniga soowmalihi”, and “Walee Dheehaay dhaaxa oloshay”.

Waaberi folklore dance group – Courtesy BBC

Within The Waaberi Band, there was a subgroup that performed folklore dancing. Among the members of this subset were Sitey Ma Nooto,  Kadija Qalanjo, Feynus Sheikh Dahir. This subgroup played the different forms of plays from the various regions in the country. In 1977, they won a gold medal as they competed against the various folklore dances of Africa which was held in Lagos Nigeria. Abdullahi Qarshe was among the participants alongside Abdulqadir Hirsi Siyad YamYam. These members were the voices of the Somali people as they echoed their inner felt feelings of what it means to be a true Somali in that era. There were also comedians within The Waaberi that include the members Abdullahi Soran, Meecaad Miigane, Basbaas, Abdullahi Farey, Abdirahman Owkombe, Dhegjar, Huryo, Awkuko, and Yusuf Maradoon. These men were artistic in their comedy.

As I was writing this article, I had the pleasure of listening to song “Faal Caashaq” voiced by Khadra Dahir and written by lyricist Hassan Ganey. Although this song revolves around love, I must admit, I have found my love in Ayaan Hassan Shire MSW 30 years ago, the mother of my beautiful children. However, the lyrics and the rhythms combined with the message of destiny and hope has shown me and my generation the lost opportunity to contribute to the benefit of succeeding generations. We have become a wandering generation looking to take refuge in the cities around the world rendering us as a lost generation as we escaped the frenzied killing in the cities of Somalia. As I watch Hassan Ganey talking about what he meant in “Faal Caashaq” in an interview on YouTube, as he claimed to have consumed khat, he recalled the agonizing memory of witnessing the re-election of Siyad Barre in 1979 for an additional seven years of presidency.

Although, for many reasons, I was supporting his re-election one thing is for sure, that Hassan Ganey was a true craftsman of the song. I have to admit that I share with Hassan Ganey the intense pleasure in the art of literature. I remind him that Siyad Barre is gone, but the music and lyrics of Faalka Caashaq will forever remain transcending time and space. I suppose that makes Ganey the winner.

Avv. Abdiwahid Abdullahi Warsame
Email: [email protected]


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