February 07, 2013-Mogadishu, a city in which extremists banned music and threatened and attacked musicians for almost six years, is set to stage the Somali Reconciliation Festival in mid-March and play host to Somalia’s leading hip-hop acts.
The festival is the brainchild of the influential Somali hip-hop crew Waayaha Cusub, led by rapper Shiine Akhyaar Ali. It will be the first major concert in the city since civil war broke out two decades ago. The Somali government, backed by African Union forces, liberated Mogadishu from Al Qaeda-backed Al Shabaab rebels last year. Though the city remains on edge, the festival’s organizers – in collaboration with the government – want to act fast to build on the optimism that the war is coming to an end.
“The best way for us to save youth from extremism and end this war,” says Ali, “is to bring them together at these concerts.”
Somali performers ranging from vocalist Falis Abdi to rapper Digriyo Abdi will headline the main stage. Other performers already confirmed for the festival include survivors of Mogadishu’s Motown-style group Waaberi, rappers Lihle Muhdin and Burhan Ahmed Yare, Afro-fusion artists Kombo Chokwe and Afro Simba from Kenya, Australian electro rockers Ring of Steel, and American psychedelic-rock group Mostar ’96. The organizers say further artists will be announced. The festival will be a “stealth” event, with exact times and location of performances released only hours ahead for security reasons. Performances will be filmed for a documentary, Live from Mogadishu, set to be released later this year, and some shows will be streamed live online.
Waayaha Cusub, a supergroup of Somali refugee rappers and singers based in Nairobi, Kenya, have been building toward this festival for more than eight years. Through their albums, videos and shows they are helping to shape a new genre of Somali music inspired by everything from African Horn pop stars Waaberi to global icons like 2Pac, Jay-Z, and Beyoncé. In December, fans rallied during a string of terror bombings to pack a small hotel in Eastleigh, Nairobi, for seven of the group’s Stop The Violence events. Songs ranging from “Dhibataada Waa” [Leave the Violence Behind] to “Gacalisaydayda” [My Baby, Let’s Work Together] have become anthems for the region’s growing anti-war movement, promoting peace and reconciliation while criticizing extremist rebels as well as any fighting groups who kill civilians. Their success has come at a cost: Ali survived an assassination attempt in 2008 and continues to receive threats against his group.
“This country is for all of us,” Ali tells Rolling Stone. “It’s time for people to have peace and leave this violence and extremist ideology behind. And for that, music is our way.”
Source: Rolling Stone