The crowds danced, sang, rapped and shouted at the first music festival held in Mogadishu in many decades. This is the first in a long while the city soundscape has not been filled with gunfire and mortar shells.
Organized by a Somali rap group, the Reconciliation Music Festival attracted international acts to a city that for far too long was music-free. From 2006 until they were forced out in August 2011, the militant al-Shabab had ruled. As result of their rule no lyrical stanzas were allowed in the al-Shabab controlled areas. They banned music as a “sin” punishable by public flogging.
Mogadishuan rapper Shine Akhiyar told the gathering, “We want to change the world’s impression toward Mogadishu as a dangerous city.” He continues, “Mogadishu is more peaceful than many cities considered peaceful. Through music, we are committed to fight extremism”.
Although music may be returning to Somalia, the country still has a long way to go in regaining its rich cultural past. Most of the open air venues from the 1980’s have been bombed and are now inhabited by squatters. The music has also changed; songs of love and romance have now made way for songs exploring the struggle for peace.
An American musician, Daniel Gerstle from Ohio noted, “The most important achievement of our festival really was to rap and sing alongside former fighters and child soldiers”.
Photo: Phil Moore/Al Jazeera