It’s been a long time since overtly political music was considered dangerous in this country—as much as I like Dead Prez, for example, I sort of doubt that the FBI is bothering to give the group the John Lennon treatment. But the situation is very different in the anarchic amalgam commonly known as Somalia, a place where the most celebrated musicians have long had the power to stir the pot in a meaningful way. And no one has a better track record of riling up the powers-that-be than Saado Cali Warsame, the fractured country’s most revered female singer.
Warsame’s latest song is “Ha dhigan Dhiigshiil” (above), which roughly translates as “Don’t send your money through Dahabshiil,” the name of a money transfer company popular among Somali expatriates the world over. Warsame accuses Dahabshii of funding Al-Shabaab, the Islamic fundamentalist insurgency that is fighting to control Somalia. According to this clunkily translated account, the beef between Warsame and Dahabshii is personal:
The company recently lost a court case against a well-known investigative journalist Dahir Abdulle Alasow in Breda Netherlands, after the company accused the reporter of humiliating figures in the company, goodwill defamation and accusation related to Dahabshiil’s attempt to assassinate singer Sado Warsame.
The song relates Dahabshiil to Alshabab, a militant group allied to Alqaeda which rules much of Southern Somalia with brutal laws, and a slow genocide going on in the Sool, Sanag and Ceyn (SSC) regions in Somalia by Somaliland forces, which Warsame is originally from.
Dahabshiil rejected the accusation and sued the investigative reporter whose website waagacusub.com published the articles relating Dahabshiil attempt to assassinate the artist Warsame and the linkage to the terror group and the slow genocide in SSC regions. But the judge in Breda district court ruled out Dahabshiil’s argument and ordered the reporter to keep doing his job freely, and states the accusation as baseless.
Dahabshii has much to fear from Warsame’s music because she has proven once before that she has the power to influence the Somali masses. Her late 1980s song “Land Cruiser” is credited with helping to bring down the regime of Mohamed Siad Barre, the target of Warsame’s lyrics. Barre was not amused:
The Somalis’ intolerance for Siad Barre became open and truly populist. Fearing the “three o’clock knock” that presaged executions, poets and singers led dissent. Siad muzzled an entire troupe after it performed “The Land Cruiser Song” for him at the National Theater. The song condemned his Nero-like propensity for collecting expensive foreign vehicles while his people perished.
If I was an executive at Dahabshii, I would be very nervous right about now. Perhaps they should fight fire with fire and hire a singer to pen a pro-company song. I believe Dexy’s Midnight Runners is available.