Cedar Artist-In-Residence Aar Maanta to release new Bilingual Somali-English Children’s Album

London-based Somali musician Aar Maanta will be releasing his latest album Ubadkaa Mudnaanta Leh (“Children Have Priority”) a bilingual Somali-English album focused on the songs and stories of youth living in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood, at The Cedar on Friday, March 22nd.

Aar Maanta    (R) and    Professor Said Salah    (L) connect at an illustration workshop for the album.

Aar Maanta (R) and Professor Said Salah (L) connect at an illustration workshop for the album.

Over the years, Aar Maanta has become deeply connected to the Minneapolis music scene through The Cedar’s Midnimo program, performing in Minnesota six times since his initial visit in 2012. As an artist with a mission, Aar Maanta has prioritized education and mentorship of young people through workshops and music-focused educational programs throughout his career. The idea for a children’s album emerged from his desire to connect with Somali youth in diaspora communities around the world and to unify them through a common shared musical heritage.

Students working on album art for Ubadkaa Mudnaanta Leh at a workshop with artist and children’s book author    Timi Bliss   .

Students working on album art for Ubadkaa Mudnaanta Leh at a workshop with artist and children’s book author Timi Bliss.

“The fact that youth were able to co-write songs and tell their own stories on this particular album was really significant,” says Aar Maanta. “There’s a lot of stories that need to be told. There’s a distance, or a disconnect in the Somali community between generations, between those who were born in the West, and their parents. Somali youth interested in the arts are usually reluctant to pursue that path because they’re worried about not getting support from their families. If they can hear or see songs that were written by youth of their age that are talking about issues they can relate to, maybe it will encourage them to follow their heart, and ignite new explorations into their art and culture.”

Ubadkaa Mudnaanta Leh was created as a collaborative project led by Aar Maanta, with contributions from producer Greg Grease of Astralblak, engineer Medium Zach, Somali playwright, poet, educator and filmmaker Said Salah, and 20+ youth and teenagers from the Cedar Riverside neighborhood. Songs flow between generations and genres, mixing traditional Somali music with hip-hop influenced beats, spoken word and poetry, Islamic greetings, educational children’s songs, and much more.

Album art from Ubadkaa Mudnaanta Leh

Album art from Ubadkaa Mudnaanta Leh

“It was a democratic project,” says Aar Maanta. “There’s a lot of different elements and angles, because we gave the kids the freedom to step in and compose the music they were interested in. Their message and stories are so deep. I believe that if we can get children to talk about the issues that they face, it can be a healing process and an understanding process between them and their parents and their wider community.”

Ubadkaa Mudnaanta Leh was funded by a 2018 Joyce Award from The Joyce Foundation, the only regional program dedicated to supporting artists of color in major Great Lakes cities with the goal of elevating their visibility and recognition in their craft.

For the album release at The Cedar on 3/22, Aar Maanta & Friends will be joined by storytellers from The Children’s Theatre Company and a fashion show curated by Sisterhood Boutique, creating a free, family friendly evening of entertainment that’s welcome to all.

Schedule of evening:

6:00pm - Doors open. Food and snacks will be provided starting at 6pm

6:15pm - Children's Theatre Company short story readings

6:45pm Reading from Habso Mohamud, author of “It Only Takes One Yes”

7:00pm - Sisterhood Boutique Fashion Show

7:30 Screening of short video of album creation process

7:45pm - Aar Maanta & Friends performance

9:00pm - Q&A with Professor Said Salah

About Aar Maanta

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 the release of Ubadkaa Mudnaanta Leh and an additional album in the works to be released in fall 2019. www.aarmaanta.com

About The Cedar

The Cedar Cultural Center is an eclectic nonprofit music venue located in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood in Minneapolis with a mission to promote intercultural understanding and appreciation through the presentation of global music and dance. Over its 30-year history, The Cedar has established itself as a premiere US venue, presenting 200+ shows a year that highlight international artists, local emerging talent, and nationally renowned voices. thecedar.org

About The Joyce Foundation

The Joyce Foundation is a nonpartisan, private foundation that invests in the future of the Great Lakes region by supporting policies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation. We support policy research, development and advocacy in areas that have a significant impact on quality of life: Education & Economic Mobility, Environment, Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform, Democracy, and Culture. Based in Chicago, Joyce focuses its grant making in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. We also collaborate with funders and other partners to explore promising policy solutions in other states or at the federal level. Joyce has budgeted 2018 charitable disbursements of $50 million on assets of approximately $1 billion. For further information, please visit www.JoyceFdn.org, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

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Funders and supporters of the Midnimo program