I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

The Coup and the Aftermath: Somalian Pop Music

by Zeke Greenwald
March 10, 2013

It hurts, Barre, doesn’t it? It hurts when somebody tries to stage a coup, a coup against you. What goes around comes around, hot shot. You’re in Africa, don’t forget. When you orchestrated a coup, it worked, sure. These kids! These kids will keep on trying. 1979 was gonna repeat itself. Fire on dissidents! Tighten the reigns! You saw the error in your ways, “Damn it, Mohammed,” you thought. “You weren’t tough enough with him growing up. Better late than never.” Even when you lost, you still kept trying to get it back. Then you had a heart attack.

Your secret police killed countless members of the opposition. They blocked reservoirs so even more died of thirst, and all at your command. Corrupt, and you let them understand your corruption. These people with their erudition from the teachers you hired from the initiatives you created. (1) With the pedagogy came a flourish in the arts. Have you listened to this music scene, man? It was you, you, you who gave them those words, those metaphors, all of that elevated language so they can sing about libisqi, love. Somali National Theater and its associated acts, all state sponsored, because of you Waaberi had a stage for their scores of performers. But now, that resplendent group is playing diaspora weddings. How bad are you, Mohamed Siad Barre? (4)

War lords run autonomous states in your nation. Did you need deny these people their heritage? (1) They are speaking the languages of the colonials now! English! How will they know the sweet words of libisqi when all they listen to is American rap? (4)

Americans didn’t need you anymore. The Cold War was going to end, you knew it. (7) Assassinations happen to the best of them. It’s sort of a cue to keep your head down, focus on the canvas, paint that nude. Or maybe you like to write, make a world come alive with your words. Did you try just being a family man, that’s a full time job in and of itself. Secret police force, now that’s a rookie mistake.

All of those musicians went into exile, Mohamed. They say you can find Saharahahaha dust in Tornado Alley, USA. These are your children, Mohamed! These are the children of your public works initiatives. This is the generation who learned how to read. Their teachers did not have to join militias and desert their students. Don’t you have any feelings towards these, your children? Magool left long before the rest. She returned once in 1987 to perform the biggest concert known to Somalia. Come 1991, all of her contemporaries follow suit. A war is afoot! Across deserts into Ethiopia and Djibouti, these innovators, these super stars walk. (9) These exiles ruminate on what it means to be culturally Somali, Mohamed.










Zeke Greenwald is a writer and filmmaker living in San Francisco. Besides writing and making movies Zeke entangles himself in romances and reads over breakfast. He is one third of the video sketch group Day Old Bagels.