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|ISSUE 52 January 18, 2003||
"I am Swinging This Flower To You" III
Essays on Somaliland Music by Abdiraxman Ahmed Shunuuf
The King Of Oud, Mohamoud SH. Ismail "Xodeydeh"
[Continued from our last issue]
Today Xodeydeh is widely seen as a revivalist and a hope for the future of the Oud. He is best described as a veteran serving as a mentor to a younger generation of artists, and at the same time consciously using his fame in order to draw attention to older Qaraami, traditional music, thereby strengthening the Somaliland music and song. Without Xodeydeh the younger generation would not be able to become aware of their musical heritage especially the Qaraami.
The musical legacy of Xodeydeh has been a central theme in Somaliland's music enthusiast circles over the past four decades. Issues that face the artists now, such as cultural commodification, ownership of Somaliland's music and the direction of the music, are important items that all Somaliland artists and fans alike, have to tackle in the coming years. For now, our coverage of this genius musician provides a long overdue recognition for one of Somaliland’s favorite sons. Our hope is simply that the attention will prove to have served as a catalyst for enhancing the prestige, honor and status of a long forgotten living legend who deserves a national symbol to be named after him, such as the Hargeisa theatre. We also believe that his tapes should be collected and put into the Somaliland National Museum for posterity, because his pioneering work has not yet been fully explored.
This article is a tribute to one of the greatest Somaliland singer /songwriter /composer /arranger /0ud player/actor, Omer Duuleh, who passed away, at the beginning of the new millennium. He literally committed to memory hundreds, if not thousands of Somaliland "Qaraami" songs or oldies. This took great dedication, stamina and a continuous and rigid lonely schedule in order to memorize the lyrics of these important songs.
Omer was endowed with a powerful memory that allowed him to store what no other person of his calibre could. These lyrics were not confined only to the Qaraami or old songs, but also included hundreds of songs from classical to contemporary Somaliland songs. No wonder both the older and younger generations loved him. Some people consider the untimely death of this son of Somaliland a tragedy, which perhaps equals in magnitude, the burning down of a major library. In the following pages, we attempt to give our readers a brief sketch of the artist and his music.
0mer Duuleh began his musical career in 1955 during the colonial days when Somaliland was still under British Colonialism. His first appearance on stage was the once in a lifetime chance that actors dream about. He performed as the leading "actress" in a play, written and directed by the late genius, Mohamed Ismail, "Barkhad Cas", who was also a nationalist freedom activist and poet. Since women were not allowed to perform in public at that time, Ornar played the role of a leading actress. He gave an exceptional performance that is remembered by fellow actors to this day. The great singer and musician, Ahmed Ali, "Drum," who played the leading actor, characterizes Omer's acting as something no other actor can ever emulate. This extra ordinary and exceptional talent both as an actor and a singer, won him praise and respect through the years by fellow actors, musicians, directors, poets, singers and the public alike.
It was in 1962, according to a Somaliland poet, Ahmed Suleman Bide, Omer Duuleh, while visiting Burao, the second biggest city in Somaliland, first met the great "Oud" player, Mohamoud Sh Ismail "Xodeydeh." It was at this time that the great master showed few notes to Omer Duuleh. "Omer began to practice day and night, until he became a master teacher of his own and a great instrumentalist," said Ahmed Suleman Bide.
By the late 1960'S, Omer created his own style of playing the "Oud." He also became a superstar. The (BBC) British Broadcasting Company’s Somali service used to play his songs on the airwaves continuously. His recordings, therefore, exceed several well-known singers combined. The Somali speaking communities around the world considered Omer one of the most admirable singer/musician/actor and poet of all time.
0mer also had become through the years, one of Somaliland's musical patriarchs. Though his music is dark hued at first since he always sang about the rift between him and his wife, or lost love, i.e., "Ha Laanoo Garnaqo" or "We Need Counseling." But the music gradually brightens and is full of interesting musical and singing’ imagery of love and romance. His sweet voice is compared to Teddy Pendergrass or Marvin Gaye.