In 2014 The Cedar presented three local Somali artists as part of our 6th annual three-day Global Roots Festival. We commissioned two collaborations between local Somali singers and non-Somali bands to present full live performances.
Mohamed Alta was backed by popular Latin band Alma Andina and Deeqa Bilan was backed by “Bob’s Band,” a group of Augsburg students and alumni, led by Augsburg Music Department Chair Emeritus and Midnimo Music Director, Bob Stacke. We also presented a solo performance by local singer and oud-player, Argos, with storytelling by his daughter, artist and actor, Ifrah Mansour. For most of the 1,500 audience members in attendance – both Somali and non-Somali – it was their first time experiencing Somali music performed live with a full band.
These “intermission sets” were part of a celebration of the kick-off of The Cedar’s new Midnimo program. Named using the Somali word for “unity,” Midnimo consists of multi-week residencies with Somali artists from Minnesota and around the world that promote intercultural appreciation and build knowledge and understanding of Somali culture through music.
Monday, September 15th 2014
La Yegros with Banda Magda
Intermission Set: Somali singer Mohamed Alta and Latin folk band Alma Andina.
Mohamed Alta, described as this generation’s “Boqorka Codka,” or the “King of Voice,” is a Twin Cities Somali singer and songwriter. He performs at Somali weddings and parties, and he recently released a new album Hoobaan.
Tuesday, September 16th 2014
Hassan Hakmoun with Derek Gripper
Intermission Set: Somali singer Deeqa Bilan, and world jazz ensemble Bob’s Band, led by Bob Stacke.
Deeqa Bilan is part of the new generation of female Somali singers in Minneapolis. Deeqa was born in Mogadishu and grew up in Minnesota. She started performing publicly in 2004 but has loved singing as long as she can remember. In 2006, Deeqa produced her first album “Nura” and has recorded more than five albums since.
Wednesday, September 17th 2014
Emel Mathlouthi with Feedel Band
Intermission Set: Somali oud player Argos.
Argos is a respected elder, oud player, and storyteller. He has been playing the oud for over 40 years now, usually performing at small events and community gatherings. He played traditional Somali tunes as part of the grand opening of the Somali Artifact and Cultural Museum.
Thursday, September 18th 2014
Music and its Message: Saado Ali Warsame’s significance as an outspoken artist
6pm at Brian Coyle Center
Saado Ali Warsame was a beloved female Somali singer-songwriter and politician dedicated to political and social justice. She was tragically assassinated by warlords in Somalia in 2014. In this session held at Brian Coyle Center, 35 elder Somali women and other members of the community gathered to discuss Saado’s legacy through her lyrics and their meanings in a safe and intimate setting.
“As a new attendee to events at The Cedar, I was unsure of what to expect at the Global Roots Festival finale on September 17th. However, it was delightful to experience two of the live musical performances that included the Feedel Band and Somali songstress, Deeqa Bilan, accompanied by the Augsburg College World Jazz Ensemble.
Warm lights illuminated an elevated band platform, accentuating the mild musical vibe. Audience seating was a semi-circle arrangement, divided by an open space in the middle, creating an inviting dance area. The room arrangement solicited feelings of wholeness between the performers and the audience members, comprised primarily of college students and local art enthusiasts.
The Feedel band enticed the audience with an array of instruments that included a brass section (saxophone, trombone and trumpet), percussion section (congas and drums), string section (guitars) and electric keyboards. Band member, Minale Bezu, acquainted audience members with a less familiar, Ethiopian instrument called a Kirar, which he eloquently played in conjunction with the others.
The solo performed by keyboardist Araya Woldemichael, was boldly entertaining. The gifted artist demonstrated his mesmerizing abilities to adeptly capture the essence of his enthusiasm as well as his eagerness to share his passion for the craft. An equally astounding solo was performed by a local musician who captivated the audience with his skillful manipulation of the trumpet.
The jazz-funk fusion, prevalent in 1960’s and ‘70’s in Ethiopia, penetrated the audience. By the second song, the dance floor filled with listeners unabashedly moving their bodies to the “groove.” The guitar players bedazzled the audience with their coordinated choreography, incorporating rhythmic steps native to the Ethiopian homeland.
The band spokesperson shared the meaning of the band’s name Feedel, explaining that “Feedel” is the Amharic word for alphabet. This elucidated the basis of the band’s mission. Just as letters have sounds that combine to form words, the Feedel band’s ability to blend fundamental Ethiopian, jazz and funk sounds, has combined to create a world of cultural fusion in the musical arena.
During the performance intermission Deeqa Bilan and the Augsburg World Jazz Ensemble wowed the audience with an unexpected perfect union.
Visually, the second performance displayed cultural fusion. The petite Bilan, elegantly clad in an ankle-length, black evening gown with gold accents, fashionably displayed the formality of modest traditional attire, blended with a hint of Western accentuation of a belted waistline. Bilan angelically poured forth melodies in her home language; two of which included a patriotic song about her home in Mogadishu and a song about a boy assimilating into life in the United States. During the performance, Bilan used hand gestures and demure body language to help audience members understand the meaning of the songs.
Surrounding Bilan was the band dressed in Western attire, yet able to capture the feel and nuances of traditional Somali music as they supported Bilan’s stylishly unique traditional vocals. In many oral traditions, music learning is not usually formal like Western practices, but rather something learned by ear. Yet the two customs merged together seamlessly to exact an intoxicating listen.”
– Guest post by Augsburg student Marcallina James