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Archive for the ‘Somali Songs’ Category

After travelling for several hours, the family had just settled into their new location with ample grazing ground and access to water nearby. The mother was disassembling the hut, sticking the Dhigo and Udub firmly into the soil and in close proximity were the two young girls holding the harness of the camel on which their elderly grandmother sat. Just as the two girls approached the hut, they were ambushed by loud chanting and the cries of ululating women drifted along the cool breeze and landed on their ears.

This they realised was an emancipation of the soul (it is not very often that weddings take place in the nomadic settlements) and were quickly impassioned. Imbued with an intense passion to participate in that wedding, the girls exchanged giggles and elatedly talked of attending the dance session afterwards. And quite rightly so, for this was their chance to mingle with the locals and exchange some verses of poetry.

Their grand-mother who, due to infirmity of age was too weak to walk and had to travel on camel-back, heard all the girls’ excited wails from her resting point. She too, though, hears the voice of ululating women resonating from the dark plains, not far from where they were now settling. After the girls had discussed their plans to attend the wedding, the grand-mother interrupted them and said:

‘Girls, girls! Would you stop the camel so that I can dismount and join those ululating women…’

They girls were taken aback by this request and stared at each other in amazement, unable to decide whether the old woman meant what she said or merely spoke in jest. This feeble woman, they thought, could not stand the noise and the dancing that takes place.

‘O’ grandmother, are you joking or have you finally gone insane’ they said.

Their grandmother smiled and then laughed, shaking her head slightly. Little do the girls know about the feelings of the old woman and what she is going through! Little do they know that over half a century ago, in an evening very similar to this, the very place that they have now settled bore witness to their grandmother’s first wedding! And in a manner similar to this evening’s wedding that the girls were planning to attend, many people from all over the countryside attended her wedding too. It was even perhaps here where her firstborn’s umbilical chord was buried. But to all this they were unaware, over taken by the wails of the wedding nearby. Even before the start of their long journey to this place, the grandmother was well aware of where they were headed and the wedding taking place.

In a short, succinct poem, the old lady relates her complete life story to her adolescent grand-daughters, wistfully lamenting her ripeness of age and the different stages in her life. She said:

 

  • Beri baan, beri baan          
  • Wax la dhaloo dhulka jiifta ahaa
  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Bilig bilig baraar celisa ahaa
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was newly born, lying on the ground

    There was a time; There was a time;

    when I scuttled around tending to lambs

  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Daba-jeex dabka qaada ahaa
  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Rukun rukun, reeraha u wareegto ahaa
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was entrusted to kindle the fire

    There was a time; There was a time;

    when aimlessly I ran around the huts

  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Raamaley riyo raacda ahaa
  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Habloweyn had hadaafta ahaa
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a juvenile guarding the goats

    There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a strolling mature girl

  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Aroos indha-kuulan ahaa
  • Beri baan, beri baan 
  • Mar curad marwo reerle ahaa
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a mascara-clad bride

    There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a first-time mother and a housewife

  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Laba-dhal laafyoota ahaa
  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Saddex-dhal sit sitaacda ahaa
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was an elegantly ambling mother of two

    There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a dazzling mother of three

  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Afar-dhal afo aada ahaa
  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Shan-dhal sheekaysa ahaa 
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was the finest mother of four

    There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a gossiping mother of five

  • Beri baan, beri baan 
  • Lix-dhal liibaantey ahaa
  • Goblan talo aduunyoy 
  • Ma hadaan gabooboo
  • Laygu qaaday guro awr. 
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a triumphant mother of six

    Woe to you o’ world!

    did I now become old

    That I am carried on camel-back

 

Image by Photogenic. Story translated from Guri Waa Haween.

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drum

 

Once the drumming starts and the Gaaf is initiated, silence fills the air. Every ear is tuned towards the person reciting the poetry or singing, in order to assess and judge the worth of his/her words. Addressing everyone present, the young girl starts the ceremony with these lines:

 

Hoobe hobaala hoobala hoobalow

Ee hoobe hobaala hoobalayey hadaba

Salaamu calaykum safiya iyo daahirow

Salaama calaykum safkan meesha joogayow

Salaama calaykum soomaaliyey dhamaan

 

Hoobe hobaala hoobala hoobalow

Ee hoobe hobaala hoobalayey hadaba

Peace be upon you O’ Safiya and Daahir

Peace be upon you O’ who have assembled here

Peace be upon you Somalis in your entirety

 

One she has passed her greetings to everyone in the room, then she explains her reason for travelling so many nights to attend this grand occasion:

 

Beryaan soo dhaxayoo bogoxaa shishaan ka imid

Calaf ma dooneyn cagahana ma daalineyn

Oo soor ma dooneyn saaxiibna uma gudeyn

Boqorada iyo boqorka soo booqo baan is idhi

Ciyaarta ka tiiri oo caawi baan is idhi

 

For nights I have been travelling, coming from distant lands

Neither was I in search of my destined partner nor was I tiring my legs

I wasn’t in search of food and for a friend I did not travel

To visit the Queen and the King was my intention

To perfect their dance ceremony and help them was my intention

 

Then a few words of the merriment of the occasion and the Gaaf:

 

Oo wiilka guurkiisu gacaleeye waalanaa

Afartaa geesoodba gurmad baanu kaaga nahay

Oo gaafka kuu taagney wiilal iyo gabdhaba

Oo ku guulayso anna iga uga gudoon salaam

 

O’ how dear is the man’s wedding to us

From the four corners arrives you an entourage

And at your Gaaf we assembled both boys and girls

May this be a triumph for you and I bid you peace

 

Then she would praise the girl:

 

Gabadhu waa ubax la beeroo uroon indhaha

Waa iftiin belelayoo waa ilays la shiday

Ragbaa u janaaney jaaheeda inay arkaan

Badda kuwaa jiiray Beledweyne orod ku tegey

Kuwaa ka sahwiyey salaadii Ilaahigay

Kuwaa riyo moodey oo aan rumaysan weli

Kuwaa dhuuniga la quutaa dhunkaal ka yahay

Oo walaal Dhooley nimaad dhaaftay dhimasha gaar

 

The girl is pleasing to the eyes like a flower sown

She is a glaring beam; she is that kindled light

Many men have gone mad for a glimpse of her sight

The ocean many have stormed and reached Beledweyne in a sprint

Some have blundered and mistaken the prayers of Allah

Some thinking it a dream have not believed it yet

For some all things edible have become but poison

O’ dear Dhool, he whom you have missed has reached his death

 

Further praising the girl, she says:

 

Shan iyo toban geela niman baa ka shubi lahaa

Kun baa loo diidey boqolbaa berriga fadhiya

Adaase lagu qaadi waayee qalbiga ku hay

Oo gabadhu caynkay tahaan kuu cadaynayaa

Casaan weeyaanoo midabkeedu waa cajiib

Casarkii ma wareegto oo waaberi lama celcelin

Timaha ma casaysan oo baarra kama cashayn

Kuwa cishaha dheelmadana caado uma lahayn

Waxaa dhalay reera dhiirdhiiran oo kulkulul

Dheregna ma ay waayin guri dheelan bay ka timi

 

15 camels some men would have paid to have her

A thousand have been rejected; a hundred lie wretched on land

You were too worthy to let go, so that you should know

And now I will shed light on the type that the girl is

She is fair in complexion and her tone is astonishing

She neither roams in the evening nor restrained in the morning

She hasn’t dyed her hair and from bars did not eat

And those who travel at night, she isn’t among them

She is born to a family hot-blooded and passionate

And provisions she lacks not, coming from a wealthy house

 

Then, praising the man (I haven’t got many poems praising the man) she says:

 

Markuu lebisto markuu laamiyada marmaro

La wada damacyee ma dumar buu u qaybsamaa

 

When immaculately dressed and strolling the streets

Though desired by all, is he divisible amongst women?

 

Then giving advice to the man she says:

 

Gabadhu waa hogol guyoo waa hilaac mar baxay

Hadba ninbaa haybinaayoo adaa hantiyey

Harraad iyo gaajo midna yaaney halis u noqon

Oo yaaney saxar taabanoo siigo yaaney qaban

Minaad la qosleyso mooyee qallooc ka dhawr

 

A girl is like thunderous rain; she is a flash of lighting

Every now and again a man sought her but you won her

To thirst and hunger may she not succumb

May not a speck of dirt touch her, or dust stick to her body

Except that you’re laughing with her, protect her from evil

 

Giving a classification of men and women and praising the newly-weds, the young girl adds:

 

Nimanku ma gudboona guntigay ka siman yihiin

Garkaa wada marayoo garashey is dheeryihiin

Midbaa is garaadiyoo geesi loo filaa

Midbaa gurigii lasoo goodey kala gilgila

Midbaa garanwaaya hawshiisa gaar ahaan

Adiga guulaystow kuuma qabo gedaa

 

Not all men are of the same calibre though equal of the girdle

The beard runs along them all but wisdom, one another they excel

There is one that professes nobility and perceived to be brave

There is one that shakes and disassembles the assembled hut

There is one that is oblivious to his duty as a whole

You, o’ victor, among them I count you not

 

And the women:

 

Dumarku ma gudboona gambadey ka siman yihiin

Midbaa is guduudisoo gaarri loo filaa

Midbaa garanweyda hawsheeda gaar ahaan

Adiga guuleysatoy kuuma qabo gedaa

 

Not all women are of the same calibre though equal of the scarf

There is the one that brightens herself and perceived to be obedient

There is the one that is oblivious to her duty as a whole

You, O’ victor, among them I count you not

 

And she ends with a general advice for the girl:

 

Laba nin oo haybta sare ka siman

Naa hooda guur iyo haween bey ku kala hadhaan

Haweeyoy inanka hano hilib hadeynu nahay

 

Two men, though equal on the outer appearance

It is through marriage and women that they each other surpass

Look after your man, O woman, if we are of the same meat

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SOMALIA2 040 SOMALIA2 079

The Gelbis (escorting the bride to her new home), as I said earlier, is the occasion that marks the commencement of the wedding ceremony. And this (above left) is how it starts, with the women slowly making their way to the hut ululating, drumming and singing songs of praise and various wedding songs as well as the Gelbis song. In the middle of them would be the bride shrouded in a white cloth. In the olden times, a bride and groom would be escorted to their new hut with a convoy of the finest horses in town, but those days are long gone now. I was received with scepticism while taking the pictures of this particular wedding, with each individual wanting to see how they became magically transformed into my digital camera’s small screen. An inquisitive look filled most of the faces present, while some, as the girl with the glittery face, braved their way.

SOMALIA2 035 SOMALIA2 042

 

The entrance of the hut, Ardaaga, would be decked with Alool (above left), though the earth would not normally be as barren as above and would be beautified with leaves and pebbles as underlay and then ornamented with a beautifully crafted mat. Once the women reach the hut, the men then make their way to the hut, humming Islamic songs of praise of the Prophet. As they approach, the gunmen take their prominent places near the hut. Once the men approach the hut, they assemble outside the hut and let the groom enter the hut alone. The gunmen then fire several (usually three) consecutive shots into the air, before the blessings and prayers are showered upon the newly-weds. Then animals are slaughtered and a grand feast is declared for the night!

  SOMALIA2 059 SOMALIA2 075 

But before the feast, right after the prayers and blessings, all congregate to watch young men assemble in a circle and partake in a jumping contest. The elders watch their offsprings from the sidelines, whilst the women ululate and the young ones, frolicking in the open land, learn the moves to the dance being performed.

 

  SOMALIA2 069 SOMALIA2 077

The dance though usually vibrant and energetic, escalates in harmony, as if it were choreographed. The dizzying swirls and the gravity-defying leaps all appear to effortlessly flow from the dancers as they waggle their bodies up and down and side to side in unity. The particular dance being performed in the above images is called Shurbo and the men chant Hoo lebi whilst leaping in the air. The group of dancers below are jumping to the Muraasenyo which is very similar to the Shurbo but with different chants. Though the young ladies now watch from the sides, their turn will come once night falls. As soon as darkness engulfs the land, a troupe of dancers consisting of young men and women escort each other to an open field, far off the newly-weds’ hut and prepare their grounds. There the young women gracefully gambol and compete in a war of verses with the young men.

 

SOMALIA2 098 SOMALIA2 132

The dance continues all the way until nightfall. Once the last few rays of the sun plummet down the horizon and the bewitching mosaic of colours across the sky start to fade, the villager return to their homes to prepare for the Gaaf.

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Gelbis – the process of escorting the bride and groom to their newly constructed hut/house is one of the pre-requisites of Somali weddings. The above song is usually sung during such processes.

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dance

 

During the rainy seasons of Gu’ and some times throughout the moderately infrequent rains of the Dayr seasons, the pastoral nomads of Somalia’s countryside rejoice in the abundance of wealth that they have. It is at this time when most of their animals give birth. The once barren earth now becomes fertile; the top layer of soil remains constantly damp (sayax) and with water covering the ground, it produces fresh green grass called Cosob for all animals to graze nearby. With the continually dropping rains, and the abundance of lush pasture for the animals, there is always a plenteous supply of fresh milk and water.

The men, relieved of the burdens of trekking countless number of miles with their camels in search of green pastures, the salty Daran plants that their camels love and watering places, can now sprawl out under the fully blossomed branches of the nearby Galool trees and relax. They celebrate as their milch-camels usually give birth during these seasons and consume the highly cherished milk just after a camel has given birth. This milk is called Dambar and is often highly prized. The camels, with their front legs loosely tied are let out into the fields nearby to nibble at the freshly sprouting leaves. The entire plains are covered in soft green grass and the elders of the village gather under trees and brilliant verses of poetry acclaiming the sweetness of the seasons are sung.

The female nomads, alleviated from the arduous chores of disassembling huts during the dry seasons of Xagaa and Jiilaal to move to greener pastures, are now engaged in conversations and endless moments of merriment. There is a plenty supply of water and milk – the two essential nutrients of the Somali nomads.

Weddings and cultural dances are a regular occurrence during these seasons. It is also a time when young men who have come of age go about, usually to far away places, scouting for their brides. Local cultural dances and wedding ceremonies are the best forms of entertainment and differ from region to region. And scouting usually takes place at the dancing circles where many young men and women come to compete in a war of words.

Though impoverished and penniless, they have neither money nor jewels to bestow upon their soon-to-be brides, but one thing is prized above everything here – eloquence of speech. And what a deadly weapon it can be! In this Nomadic culture, even the amount of camels a man owns or the aristocratic lineage from which he hails may sometimes mean little where articulacy in speech and poetry are considerably triumphant. The more eloquent a man is – I.e. the more he is able to extol the virtues of his clan, family, valour and exalt the woman he admires by showering her with praise, using an array of metaphors and descriptions of the nomadic life with a clear indication of his wisdom and intellectual capacity – the more appealing he is to the observant eyes of the young clapping ladies.

The young man is in a tough competition though, for poetry here is a pastime for all. So he must be able to evoke deep sentiments through recitation and complement it with a hypnotising dance. The women too are venomous in their speech and often respond with sharp words. Perhaps one of the most famous cultural dance, that most people have heard of, is the story between Hurre Walanwal and Cambaro (I will write more about this famous story in another post soon)

The Engagement & Wedding

These cultural dances usually occur after a wedding. Weddings are perhaps one of the most important aspects of the Somali culture. A wedding denotes not only the union of two souls but the relationship between two families and, more importantly, two tribes. The engagement or Meher usually takes place a few days before the wedding, and sometimes on the same day. The wedding arrangements and agreements are all settled on that day to prepare for the big day. But before the jubilant groom can lay hands on his beautiful bride, there are many hurdles to cross and many gifts to bestow upon her family. These include

Gabaati – This is usually a gift conferred upon the girl’s family when the groom and his father go to ask the girl’s father for her hand in marriage. It is given to the soon-to-be bride’s family. Usually a young camel is given.

Yarad – This is a present given to the immediate family of the girl and is given on the day of engagement as a form of gratitude. Usually a shawl or money wrapped in an expensive shemagh or keffiyah is given.

Sooryo – this is a present given to the male members of the girl’s family. Usually it is her brothers/cousins etc who take this and is always in the form of money.

Meher – this is the engagement. The amount of camels or money the man must make a pledge to bestow his wife as Dowry is usually known as her Meher. The Meher does not need to be paid straight away, but is a promise which the man is bound to fulfil. In earlier times, when camels were in plenteous supply, a woman would be given about 100 camels just for her hand in marriage. Today, due to the lessening amount of camels in the nomadic countryside, you would be hard pressed to find a man who can afford to pay 10. The importance of Meher cannot be underestimated – without it the wedding cannot take place, so the lady needs to be clear as to what she wants for her Meher and the man is obliged to pay it.

 

Gelbis

Once the hut is constructed for the wedding in a remote place and all the essential utensils are decorated within it, the wedding starts with something called Gelbis – this is usually done just before sunset in most places. Everyone is invited on a specified date and then the Gelbis starts. Gelbis involves a disciplined routine. All the women attending the event in their colourful dresses escort the bride who stands in the middle of all of them, shaded by a long sheet of cloth. Standing far away from the designated hut, about a hundred metres away, they slowly make their way to the hut whilst somali dancedrumming, clapping and ululating (mashxarad) loudly. They sing;

Nuur Allow

Nebi Allow

Maxamad Nebi

Magac samow

 

O’ Light of God

O’ Prophet of God

O’ Prophet Mohamed

How excellent your name is!

The groom, who is also at an equal distance on the other side of the hut, along with all the men present, too, slowly makes his way to the hut with the men chanting songs of praise of the prophet.

Allahuma salli calal xabiib Muxamad

Oh Allah, shower your blessing upon our dear prophet Mohamed

The women approach the hut first, and the bride alone, still clouded in mystery under the long sheets held by the women above her head, enters the hut unseen. The rest of the women assemble outside the hut, leaving adequate amount of space for the approaching gentlemen. The men then arrive, with the tribal chiefs and revered elders on either sides of the groom, buzzing like bees in their mantra.

With slow, calculated steps, and chanting all the while, the groom makes his way into the hut while the rest of the men align themselves outside the hut, still persistent in their chants. With both parties now standing at the entrance of the hut, Ardaa, the chanting finally stops and the most notable member of the congregation gives a short speech and blessings are showered upon the newly weds. After verses from the Holy Qur’an are recited and Amen is declared en masse, three men fire three shots in short succession into the air to conclude the ceremony. This concludes the Gelbis After the feast of fresh meat and milk is consumed, the bride and groom are escorted with horses and camels to their new home and the party begins. 

As the poet, Cabdullahi Faarax Warsame ( Lecture) stated in one of his poems;

Waa gob iyo caadkeed
Aroos inay gangaamaan
Guri ay yagleelaan
Gelbiska iyo shallaadkiyo
Gole lagu kulmaayoo
Giringiro ciyaartii
Dadku gaaf ka boodaan
Wa gob iyo caadkeed

 

It is of Nobles and their custom

To coordinate a splendid wedding

And construct a house

The Gelbis and the chantings

At the places of gathering

Where the dance take place

And the masses leap at the Gaaf

It is of Nobles and their custom

As the sunset dips into the horizon and darkness engulfs the area, fires are lit and dances continue on through the night. After the Gelbis several routine and mandatory tasks are performed as part of the wedding. These include Gaaf, which is also known as Todoba Bax, Xeedho, Shaash saar, etc. depending on the region where the wedding is taking place. Even the dances differ from region to region.

This is one long post, so I will stop here and explain more about Gaaf, Xheedho and Shaah Saar in another post…

Image 1

Image 2

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MOGADISHU

 

Another year went by – almost slipped without being noticed much. It has been one long volatile year for Somalia with the arrival of the Ethiopian forces to help the incredibly incompetent Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia. Today the Ethiopian forces have almost obliterated the weak and vulnerable people of Mogadishu and the very government that was supposed to protect the feeble residents has but given the scrawny Ethiopians carte blanche to exercise their authority. The residents of Mogadishu, instead of celebrating the New Year with their loved one, are burying their dead relatives, mourning the deaths of their young one while despondently clinging on to the one thing that unites them all- hope! They are bracing themselves for another year of misery – their cheerless eyes half-heartedly fixed on the perilous road ahead, expectantly awaiting their fortune or misfortune… They have become refugees in their own country!

 

I am hereby wishing the residents of Mogadishu in particular a very Blessed Eid and all the best for the bleak year ahead. The following song is dedicated to them as a show of support. It is patriotic song from the legend Muse ismaciil Qalinle and it is called “Hadii aanan dhulkaygow” Enjoy…

 

Hadii aanan dhulkaygow

Dhuux cadaawe kuu Karin

Hadii aanan dhulkaygow

Dhiig kuugu fool dhiqin

If, for you my land, I don’t

Cook an enemy’s marrow

If, for you my land, I don’t

Rinse your face with blood

Hadii aanan dhulkaygow

Gobanimada soo dhicin

Soomali kama dhalan

If for you my land I don’t

Sovereignty reclaim

I wasn’t born of a Somali

Maalkaaga maan dhaqan

Caanihiisa maan dhamin

Ciidana dhab uma ladin

Your wealth I did not keep

Its milk I did not taste

And the soil I did not truly inhabit

 

Hadii aanan dhulkaygow

Gaaja kuugu dhuubnaan

Hadii aanan dhulkaygow

Dharka kuugu duubnaan

If for you my land I don’t

Become emaciated with hunger

If for you my land I don’t

Become draped in your clothes

 

Hadii aanan dhibaatada

dhexda suunka ku adkayn

Hadii aan dhaxantiyo

milicdaba u dherernaan

Soomali kama dhalan

If for the difficulties I don’t

Fasten my waist with the rope

If the bitter colds I don’t

and the scorching heat endure

I wasn’t born of a Somali

Dhirta miraa kamaan guran

Dhuunigaaga maan cunin

Kuma dhaqaaqin magacaa

The fruits I did not pick from your trees

Your food I did not consume

And your name I did not preserve

Maalkaaga maan dhaqan

Caanihiisa maan dhamin

Ciidana dhab uma lihi

Your wealth I did not keep

Its milk I did not taste

And the soil I did not truly inhabit

image

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Salaamu Calaykum dear friends,

I have been rather busy lately and have been unable to update this blog, and probably would not be able to do so for the next few days either. So, until we meet again in a few day’s time, I shall leave you with this brilliant video. Do enjoy…

Native, I haven’t forgotten about the Somali weddings account
and as I promised you I will bring you an extensive write-up of what the custom
entails. Bear with me…

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