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Biography

Waaberi (Somali: Waaberi, Arabic: وابري‎) was a Somali musical supergroup.

The troupe was established by members of the Radio Artists Association. It was supported by the Somali government as part of the National Theatre of Somalia, and made tours throughout several countries in Africa, including Egypt and Sudan. They also performed in the People's Republic of China. After a coup in 1969, the ensemble was renamed Waaberi, which means "Dawn Players". The group continued to exist as a private organization into the 1990s.

Vocalist Maryam Mursal, the first woman to play Somali jazz, was a member of the ensemble. After performing at the English WOMAD festival in 1997, the group toured North America in 1998, and recorded an album with Egyptian musician Hossam Ramzy.

As Somalia's foremost musical group, Waaberi spawned many popular artists who would go on to enjoy successful individual careers and shape the face of Somali music for years to come. Prominent members of the band included:

Ali Feiruz
Qasim Hilowle
Aweis Ghedow
Abdulkadir Nurani
Sahal Mo'allim Isse
Ahmed Naji Sa'ad
Abdullahi Qarshe
Hibo Nuura
Hassan Sheikh Mumin
Abdi Muhumed Amin
Mohamed Ibrahim Hadrawi
Mohamud Abdullahi Sangub
Mohamud Tukale Osman
Abdi Adan Qeis
Hussein Aw Farah
Mohamed Ali Kaariye
Ali Suguleh
Abdulle Raggeh Tarawil
Mohamed Ahmed Kulu'
Magool
Maryam Mursal
Khadija Qalanjo
Hasan Adan Samatar
Faduma Abdullahi Kahin "Maandeeq"
Faduma Qassim Hilowle
Mohamed Aden Da'ar
Mohamed Suleiman Tube'
Mohamed Hassan Barrow
Omar Dhule Ali
Khadija Abdullahi Daleys
Sada Ali Warsame
Binti Omar Ga'al
Abdikadir Mo'allim Jubba
Salad Darbi
Ahmed Ali Egal
Abdulqader Hassan Nageye
Seinab Haji Ali Bahsan
Kinsi Haji Aden
Kadra Dahir Ige
Sahra Ahmed Jama
Omar Abdulle Sholi
Mohamed Karama
Mustaf Karama
Mohamud Karama
Qaasim Karama
Farxiyo Fiska
Faadumiina Qaasim
Ikraan Caraale
Qoomaal
——–
Waaberi is the Somali word
for morning.
After years of exile
some of these artists
have finally found
each other again,
hoping to create a new dawn
for Somali music.

A circle of singers sit on decorated pillows, drinking sweet tea. The atmosphere is intense but relaxed as they slowly warm up, singing their way through songs of love and death, of the beautiful lover with the long neck, of desire and of the sensible advice of the wise old men.

This is the good life. Lots of talk and music among friends, witty and sharp comments back and forth between performers and audience - this is no passive crowd. People sing and play along gently, always respecting the direction and authority of the master singers. When the song culminates, or when the singer ad-libs the double entendre lyric variation, they explode in laughter and shouting. There is no amplification. To hear the singer, musicians keep the volume down while maintaining the high energy. Traditionally, the nomads could not afford to carry instruments on the camels, so they learned to beat on the nearest thing that sounded good; today teacups and bottles are perfect percussion instruments - clear but not loud. The musicians follow every little sign and wink as they support the lead singer, interpreting the sorrow and joy of the people.

The language and music of Somalia is a mixture of Africa and Arabic influences. Trade and migration of African and Arabic nomadic tribes has contributed to the cultural exchange for centuries. West Indian lutes and frame drums found their way to the region via Egypt, long before Islam. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Arabic conquest and migration to Sudan and the horn of Africa completed the gradual Islamisation of the area. Most songs are performed in unison: the Arabic oud is central but it is displayed in a distinctly Somali style. The scales are predominantly pentatonic but, especially when sung, they often include embellishments, inflections, and tuning strongly influenced by Arabic microtonal scales. The result is an appealing hybrid music and songs that make Westerners think of a special Somali Blues.

In several Muslim societies music is accepted but holds no high status. There is a tendency to separate religious forms of music from social music. The Somalis, always a very pragmatic and practical people, revere Islam and love music. In recent years, Somali musicians have adapted influences from Indian, Chinese, and Western music. Their repertoires are a blend of traditional songs, urban dance "Jazz" music, and vaudeville type performances mixed with comedy and satire. This album consists of a pure form of traditional music, which is at the heart of Somali cultural and social life.

Maryam Mursal is the star of the Waaberi ensemble. More than any other Somali artist, she is capable of blending musical influences and was the first woman to play Somali Jazz. She started playing at nightclubs in 1966: here she heard the music of Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Antonio Carlos Jobim and decided to incorporate these contemporary influences in her own music. It has taken much strength and courage to be a public female figure in a society like Somalia. People love and respect her, but under dictatorship you cannot mess with fire. This kept her from performing for two years because she spoke against the Powers That Be. Typically, she chooses to sing songs that have hidden political meaning. Maryam takes her responsibility very seriously, as she knows that she is speaking for her people, but still she is not afraid to criticize her audience; the men are always reminded to treat women properly. Maryam required even more courage to flee from the civil war. With her five children she walked for months under extreme conditions through the deserts to Kenya, back up through Ethiopia and Somali to Djibouti. Finally she reached Denmark, where she lives and works.

On this album, Waaberi is joined by Egyptian master percussionist Hossam Renzy. They had a lot of fun together, proving that Somali and Middle Eastern Music is still closely related. These performers are the elite of the National Theatre - once a great troupe of musicians, dancers and actors before civil war destroyed everything.

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