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You Need to Hear This New 'Import-Export Mogadishu' Mixtape

A new mixtape of rare synthesizer, drum machine and laptop music from 1990s & 2000s Somalia.

Vik Sohonie, founder of Ostinato Records, tells us about his new upcoming compilation, Sweet As Broken Dates Chapter 2, and shares a new mixtape.

In 2017, Sweet As Broken Dates, our Grammy-nominated compilation of stellar Somali music from before the country's civil war was released. The songs revived heartwarming memories of a lavish Mogadishu and Hargeisa not known too many non-Somalis, and in many ways allowed the Somali diaspora to reconnect with a time and place ransacked by the wicked fates of history.

All our due diligence and research led us to believe that some of finest music ever made firmly stopped when the war started. Hibo Nuura's song on the compilation, "If the Artist Lets You Down," added to this perception, as the widely respected Nuura chastised her fellow musicians for what she saw as a failure of their responsibility to keep the country's rich music culture alive amid tragedy.

But we were wrong. The music did not stop. Both famous and obscure Somali musicians quietly kept their culture alive in the 1990s and 2000s on drum machines, synthesizers, and laptops. The Somali pentatonic sound melded perfectly with new digital equipment, almost exhibiting an even more authentic sound as analog western instrumentation vacated the repertoire. Most of these recordings were kept private or shared in small circles, never reaching the same audiences in luxurious venues as the music of the 70s and 80s.


This is Chapter 2 in the Somali music story, not Vol. 2.

At Ostinato Records, we want to reimagine the sequel for music compilations. Too often, "Vol. 2" is filled with the choice cuts that simply did not qualify for the first volume. As storytellers and image-makers, this approach needs a rethink. We have a responsibility to carry the story forward, to not simply rehash what has already been available, and to give agency to the recent past rather than constantly hark back to the 70s and 80s.

"Import/Export Mogadishu" is the side A of a mixtape to announce that we are deeply immersed in producing, Sweet As Broken Dates Chapter 2, and to give fans who relished the first compilation a sneak peak into the direction we're headed. Side B of the mixtape will be an insight into Chapter 3.

The selection begins with a slow-burning groover by the lively Xabib Shaarabi, a key Somali music figure in the 1990s whose digital disco style was celebrated in a short but viral documentary by The Guardian. We are also proud to announce that Xabib Shaarabi along with lifetime achievement award winner, Cabdinuur Alale, will be performing in Berlin on March 23 as part of the Find the File Festival.

These are the next stages in the Somali music revival: the advancement of a story with endless chapters and the resurrection of former greats and live bands, reunited to showcase what no war could vanquish: the resilience and adaptability of the Somali experience.

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Still from RTN TV's YouTube page.

Prominent Somali Activist Almas Elman Shot and Killed In Mogadishu

The organizer and sister of activist Ilwad Elman, was shot dead while riding in a car on Wednesday.

Almas Elman, a prominent Somali rights activist and organizer was killed today in Mogadishu. She died after being hit by a bullet while riding inside of a car in the Halane compound, reports the Somali news site Hiiraan.

Though details surrounding her death remain uncertain, according to security on the ground Elman "was riding in a car along a road inside the airport," Mohamed Omar, a Somali security official told News 24. "A stray bullet hit her, and she died within a few minutes." The complex is also the headquarters of African Union soldiers.

She was believed to been heading to the airport after attending a meeting at the Elman Peace Centre, which was founded by her mother Fartuun Adan in 1990.

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Somalia Has Announced It Will Grant 'Outstanding' Somali Diasporans the Hodan Nalayeh Award

The new and annual prize has been established in honor of the journalist and founder of Interactive TV who was recently killed in an attack in Somalia.

As Somalis and Africans alike continue to mourn those lost in an attack by Al-Shabab last week, the Somali government has taken the steps to honor them—one of whom being Hodan Nalayeh.

The foreign ministry has announced the Hodan Nalayeh Award—a new, annual prize which will be given to "outstanding" individuals from the Somali diaspora who've made positive contributions to their country, according to BBC.

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The 12 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Sarkodie, Cassper Nyovest, Elaine, Darkovibes, Stogie T, Phyno, C Natty, and more.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our best music of the week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Check out all of OkayAfrica's playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Photo courtesy of CNOA

These Colombian Civil Rights Activists Are Fighting to Make Sure Afro-Colombians are Counted in the Census

When 30 percent of Colombia's Black citizens disappeared from the data overnight, a group of Afro-Colombian activists demanded an explanation.

It was the end of 2019 when various Black organizations protested in front of the census bureau—The National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (DANE)—in Bogotá, Colombia to show their dissatisfaction about what they called a "statistical genocide" of the black population. The census data, published that year, showed 2.9 million people, only 6 percent of the total population of the country, was counted as "Afro-Colombian," "Raizal," and "Palenquero"—the various terms identifying black Colombians.

For many years, Afro-Colombians have been considered the second largest ethno-racial group in the country. Regionally, Colombia has long been considered the country with the second highest number of Afro-descendants after Brazil, according to a civil society report.

Why did the population of Afro-Colombians drop so drastically?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists protesting erasure of Afro-descendants in front of the census bureau.

Last year, a crowd of activists gathered in Bogota to protest what they saw as erasure of Black communities in the Colombian census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

In the latest national census report from 2018/2019, there appeared to be a 30.8 percent reduction of the overall group of people that identified as Black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal, and Palenquero, as compared to the 2005. After this controversial report, an Afro-Colombian civil rights organization known as the National Conference of Afro Colombian Organizations (CNOA), officially urged DANE to explain the big undercounting of the black population.

This wasn't a small fight. Representatives who hold the special seats of Afro-Colombians in Colombia's congress asked the census bureau to attend a political control debate at the House of Representatives in November 2019 to deliver an accountability report. "The main goal of doing a political debate was to demand DANE to give us a strong reason about the mistaken data in the last census in regard to the Afro population," said Ariel Palacios, an activist and a member of CNOA.

At the debate, the state released an updated census data report saying that, almost 10 percent of the Colombian population—4.6 million people out of 50.3 million—considers themselves Afro-Colombians or other ethnicities (like Raizal, and Palenquero). But despite DANE trying to confirm the accuracy and reliability on the latest census report it was clear that, for a variety of reasons, Black people were missed by the census. The state argued that their main obstacles with data collection were related to the difficulties of the self-recognition question, as well as security reasons that didn't allow them to access certain regions. They also admitted to a lack of training, logistics and an overall lack of success in the way the data collectors conducted the census.

How could they have counted Black populations better?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists playing drums in front of the census bureau.

Drummers performing during a protest against the Colombian census bureau's erasure of Afro-Colombians from the 2018 census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

These arguments were not reasonable for the civil rights activists, partially because the state failed to properly partner with Afro-organizations like CNOA to conduct or facilitate extensive informational campaigns about the self-identification questions.

"CNOA has worked on self-recognition and visibility campaigns among the Afro community and this census ignored our work," says priest Emigdio Cuesta-Pino, the executive secretary of CNOA. Palacios also thinks that the majority of Afro-Colombians are aware of their identity "we self-identify because we know there is a public political debate and we know that there is a lack of investment on public policies."

That's why it is not enough to leave the statistical data to the official census bureau to ensure that Afro-Colombian communities are fully counted in the country. And the civil rights activists knows that. They made a big splash in the national media and achieved visibility in the international community.

Thanks to The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights organization, Palacios traveled to D.C to meet with Race and Equality institution and a Democratic Congressman. "We called for a meeting with representative Hank Johnson to talk about the implementation of Colombia's peace accords from an Afro-Colombian perspective but also to address the gross undercounts of its black population," says Palacios.

For the activists at CNOA, the statistical visibility of the Black population is one of their battles. They have fought for Afro population recognition for almost two decades. "Since the very beginning CNOA has worked on the census issue as one of our main commitments within the statistical visibility of the Afro-Colombian people," says priest Cuesta-Pina. Behind this civil organization are 270 local associations, who work for their rights and collective interests.

The activists want to raise awareness on identity. Because according to Palacios, "In Colombia, there is missing an identity debate—we don't know what we are. They [the census bureau] ask if we are black, or if we are Afro-Colombians. But what are the others being asked? If they are white, mestizo or indigenous?" Palacios believes that for "CNOA this debate is pending, and also it is relevant to know which is the character of this nation."

Afro-Colombian Populations and the Coronavirus

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists use mock coffins and statistics to protest erasure of Afro-descendants

Colombian civil-rights activist insist that undercounting Afro-descendants can have a real impact on the health of Afro-Colombian communities, especially during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

Even though the state recently "agreed with to give us a detailed census report" and make a different projection with the micro data, says Palacios, now with the Covid-19 emergency, CNOA and the government has suspended all meetings with them, including cancelling a second congressional debate and the expert round table meeting to analyze the data.

Unfortunately, it is exactly in situations like the Covid-19 emergency where data analysis and an accurate census report would have been useful. According to the professor and PhD in Sociology Edgar Benítez from Center for Afro Diasporic Studies—CEAF, "Now it is required to provide a reliable and timely information on how the contagion pattern will spread in those predominantly Afro regions in the country and what is the institutional capacity in those places to face it," says Benítez.

He adds that this information is "critical at the moment because the institutional capacity is not up to provide it at the current situation". That's why the Center for Afro Diasporic Studies plans to work with DANE information from the last census. According to Benítez, "We are thinking of making comparisons at the municipal level with the information reported in the 2018 Quality of Life Survey, in order to have a robust and extensive database as possible on the demographic, economic and social conditions of the black, afro, Raizal and Palenquera population in Colombia."









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