History of Somalia Music

by 09/11/2012 10:25:00 0 comments 981 Views

The music of Somalia refers to the musical styles, techniques and sounds of Somalia.


Somalia has a rich musical heritage centered on traditional Somali folklore. Most Somali songs are pentatonic; that is, they only use five pitches per octave in contrast to a heptatonic (seven note) scale such as the major scale. At first listen, Somali music might be mistaken for the sounds of nearby regions such as Ethiopia, Sudan or Arabia, but it is ultimately recognizable by its own unique tunes and styles. Somali songs are usually the product of collaboration between lyricists (midho), songwriters (lahan), and singers ('odka or "voice").

Native instruments include the batar drum and the kaban or oud. Bands such as Waaberi and Horseed have gained a small following outside of the country. Others, such as Ahmed Cali Cigal and Maryam Mursal, have fused traditional Somali music with rock and roll, bossa nova, jazz, and other modern influences.


The first major form of modern Somali music began in the mid-1930s, when northern Somalia was a part of the British Somaliland Protectorate. This style of music was known as Xer-Dhaanto, an innovative, urban form of Somali folk dance and song. This period also saw the rise of the Xaaji Baal Baal Dance Troupe, which became very influential over the course of its long career.

Somali popular music began with the balwo style, which was created by Abdi Sinimo. This style began in Dilla, and then spread throughout the area. It was a mixture of modern poetry and Somali dance music.

Abdullahi Qarshe rose to fame in the early 1940s as part of the qaraami style. Many qarami songs from this era are still extremely popular today. This musical style is mostly played on the kaban (oud). The first Somali kaban players were: Ali Feiruz, Mohamed Nahari, and others in 1950s.

During the Siad Barre regime, music was suppressed except for a small amount of officially-sanctioned music. There were many protest songs produced during this period.

Music institutions

The first radio station in Somalia to air popular Somali music was Radio Somali, based in Hargeisa. Nowadays, Somali music is also available for download on popular online Somali music portals.