Beautiful photos courtesy of Paul Munene
On the evening of February 4th 2017 I had the incredible luck to catch Sahra Halgan Trio in concert at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi, for a mere 500 bob (the equivalent of $5). Yes my friends, I call that my good fortune.
The band is comprised of Sahra Halgan on vocals (a Somali), Maël Salètes on guitar and America Krol on percussions (two ferenjis the Somali term for foreigner). They sing predominantly in Somali, interspaced with some French here and there; and also perform both new and classic Somali music.
Their music brought back vivid memories of my late mother singing alongside Somali music legends like Sahra Ahmed, Cumar Dule, Maandeeq, Hassan Adhan Samatar and others, the sultry nomadic tunes blasting from our old cassette deck, before the civil war broke out in 1991 and everything changed.
I’d describe their music as a fusion of Rock & Roll (courtesy of the electric guitar and up-tempo rhythms) and African music (the lyrics, Oud, Kora and Jumbe). To appreciate their artistic genius though, one must first suspend judgment on what constitutes Somali and by extension, African music.
What is African music anyway?
Is music considered African if it is produced and performed exclusively by Africans (of the melanin persuasion), in a language of the continent? Or is it African if it embodies African ideals and ethos of unity, sharing and collaboration?
I ascribe to the latter. In some of our African cultures music as an entity, is not owned by any one person. Rather it is a gift bestowed upon an artist, which is to be shared with, and enjoyed by the community. In this instance, the artist is a vessel through which inspiration is channeled to the world.
Therefore music, and art in general, is a powerful tool that can unite us and help us to transcend our bias.
I'd love to hear your thoughts, what does African music or African art mean to you?