Published on September 24th, 2015 | by Hondo0
Light & Sound Of Mogadishu
There was a time in the 70s when Mogadishu was the coolest place in Africa. It was a city of whitewashed coral houses, colonial arcades on tree-lined boulevards and Italian Art Deco cafes looking over a cobalt-blue sea.
And it was funky. Young women in miniskirts strolled alongside older women in billowing direh. Young dudes in bell bottoms and sporting serious Afros, strutted past groups of men in mabwis kilts and white skull caps. And the local bands – inspired by James Brown, The Doors and Santana – were laying down some of the heaviest organ-led funk on the continent.
Sadly, that Mogadishu is long gone. But its spirit lives on in this collection of 45s just released by Afro7 Records.
The singles were originally released by the local Light & Sound label. The label was an off-shoot of the ‘Light & Sound’ electric appliance shop, both owned by local entrepreneur Ali Hagi Dahir. Not only could Light & Sound sell you the record player, they could sell you the LP to play on it as well.
The recording studio sat in a back room just off the main sales floor. It was the first privately owned studio in Somalia. Unlike the State-owned studios at Radio Mogadishu, here musicians were free to experiment and get into their own groove.
There was a time in the 70s when Mogadishu was the coolest place in Africa with local bands laying down some of the heaviest organ-led funk on the continent.
The best tracks from the time are built around the deep groves of Ahmed Naalji and his super-tight Sharero Band. Naalji cut his teeth playing with the Radio Mogadishu Orchestra, but soon became frustrated by the style of music they were forced to play.
It wasn’t long before he started his own band. Originally called ‘Gemini’, they were soon known as the Sharero Band, and shamelessly copied the heavy funk coming out of America at the time. They quickly become the hottest band in Mogadishu performing every weekend at the Jazeera nightclub in the south of the city, the Juba nightclub in the centre and the Al-Curuba nightclub in the iconic hotel of the same name.
It’s an album of two halves – the first featuring funkier stuff from the Sharero Band, the second focusing on the more traditional sounds from Magool, the biggest female Somali artist of her time.
Personally, I would have loved an entire album of the grinding keyboards and wah-wah guitar of the Sharero band. But with Mogadishu Light & Sound only ever pressing 150 copies of each their singles, I understand that they may be difficult to lay hands on.
So I’m simply thankful for Side A. And know it’s going to get a bit of a workout over the months to come.
(Just one more thing: I’m not sure what the sources were for these songs – I can’t imagine they’d be great – but the mastering is excellent. The artwork is topnotch too. So well done Afro7!)