In Somalia, political violence in recent years has stifled local culture. But citizens are rallying to restore the country’s rich traditions of music and poetry. We meet one of them now — a musician who has created one of the hottest venues on the Horn of Africa.
Welcome to this nation of poets and to the Hiddo Dhawr Center in Hargeysa, Somaliland’s capital.
Here, lovers of traditional Somali music gather to celebrate their shared culture, surrounded by traditional chairs and even thatched houses.
It’s the brainchild of Sahra Halgan. A legendary Somali musician, her mission is to promote Somali culture while providing entertainment.
“We boast a rich culture in arts, poetry, and music. It has brought us together and created love among the Somali people. We play music using guitars and not machines. This rich culture is what we want to bring back. We want the culture to remain intact and not be overtaken by technology,” Halgan said.
The center is mostly booked for the weekend. Abdi Yusuf is one of the visitors here. A lover of Somali culture, he comes here with his friends every weekend.
“Rebuilding the culture of the Somali people because it’s been lost, and we turned it into a musical one. Now we used traditional guitar. We are very happy to come to Hiddo Dhawr and have this kind of entertainment, and it’s very important for foreigners to come here and see our culture,” said Yusuf.
It’s a culture that stretches back into the ages, and the Hiddo Dhawr Center here in Hargeysa wants that beautiful culture preserved, nurtured into something that can be used to portray the richness of the Somali cultural heritage.
The center is also a draw for foreign researchers, including frequent visitor Christina Wolner.
“I come to Hiddo Dhawr very often, because it’s the only place you can see live music in Hargeysa. I like coming here for the same reason that many of the people that I’ve talked to here like coming. It’s a place you can relax, you can be yourself. There is a different kind of energy both from the performers and the audience,” Wolner said.
Throughout the nation, a campaign is underway to revive Somalis’ rich culture — a culture that has experienced many challenges due to conflict and instability.