This fascinating compilation gathers recordings from the Horn of Africa spanning several decades, including pop songs as well as tunes recorded for theatrical plays. Many of the recordings were made in Mogadishu, Hargeisa, or Djibouti, though some of the later tracks were recorded in Dubai or North America.
Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn of Africa
The tracks on this compilation tend to embrace electronic instruments and dance rhythms, with some coming close to a disco feel -- Dur-Dur Band's "Gorof (Elixir)" is a genuine floor-filler and became somewhat of a left-field club favorite after the compilation was released. Several of them have off-beats similar to reggae, though this is traditional of the Dhaanto style originating from the Ogaden region, and Somali musicians have said that Jamaica took the rhythm from them.
There are also some moody rhythm & blues ballads, which sound ethereal due to the amount of spaced-out echo and the crumbling lo-fi tape quality. Sharaf Band's "Kadeed Badanaa Naftaydani (My Life Is Full of Tribulations)" was recorded in the 1980s, but it has a tense yet syrupy groove similar to what trip-hop producers like Massive Attack would be doing the following decade.
The liner notes are filled with numerous essays and interviews navigating the history of Somalia and the development of its music scene. Read the text for valuable, enriching context, or just enjoy the album for its addictive rhythms, passionate performances, and otherworldly aura.
Original review by Paul Simpson / Allmusic