The Cedar Cultural Center announced today that London-based Somali musician Aar Maanta will be their 2018-19 Artist-In-Residence. To celebrate and kick off his residency, he’ll be performing a special Eid Celebration Concert at Spring Cafe at Como Park Pavilion in St. Paul on Saturday, June 16th.
Aar Maanta is a Somali musician whose activism, work and creativity led him to become a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), while leading one of the only active touring bands in the world that plays live Somali music. His work includes the recent UNHCR campaign about irregular youth migration in the Horn of Africa, Dangerous Crossings, for which his song “Tahriib” was reproduced and performed in collaboration with leading artists from Africa.
As a singer and songwriter, Aar Maanta has embraced an eclectic mix of styles including influences from rock and reggae jostling with traditional Arabic and Somali music. Despite graduating with a science degree, Aar Maanta pursued music. He began the Horn 2 Groove recording project which generated his 2009 debut album, Hiddo & Dhaqan. The album merged traditional Somali music with Western influences like house and reggae into a fusion described as Afro-hop. In 2010, the Paris-based radio station StarAfrica recognized Aar Maanta’s achievement in creating this new sound when it named him “A Somali Culture Shaper in London.” He released the 2014 EP, Somali Songs from the Diaspora to connect with Somalis around the world. Aar Maanta hopes to take his music to the wider community with an album in the works to be released in fall 2018.
As an artist with a mission, he has prioritized education and mentorship of young people through workshops and music-focused educational programs throughout his career. During his June 16th Eid concert, youth who are working on an album with Aar Maanta for release in March 2019 will make a special guest appearance.
The Cedar has hosted Aar Maanta twice before with great success in 2012 and 2015. However, when The Cedar attempted to bring Aar Maanta back in Fall 2017, he was subject to a high-profile visa delay, leading to the cancellation of a month of residency events just a week before the band was set to land in Minnesota. The Cedar finally received a year-long visa for Aar Maanta in April 2018.
Over the course of 2018-19, Aar Maanta will perform four upcoming concerts, tour through Mankato and St. Cloud, participate in educational programs and residency events across the state, and spearhead the creation of a brand new Somali children's album in collaboration with Greg Grease from Astralblak and Somali playwright, poet, educator and filmmaker Said Salah.