Somali Week Festival to be held in the United Kingdom

Somali Week Festival, dedicated to art forms and spaces at risk of being lost or pushed to the margins, is set to take place between 23 October and 1 November. Oxford House, Derbyshire Street, London and various other venues will be hosting the festival. Aar Maanta, acclaimed voice of a new generation of Somali musicians in the UK, performs 25 October.  

Aar Maanta during a live performance.
Aar Maanta during a live performance.

A panel discussion on ‘Art at Margins’ holds before Aar Manta's evening performance . Writer and scholar Barwaaqo and theatre director Abdidhuh Yusuf will engage in a conversation on the topic of space, reflect on the work and what the future holds for the Somali language, music and theatre.

Lyrically, Aar Maanta’s songs are written in the traditional Somali poetic form using allegory and alliteration to address issues of relevance to Somali immigrants. As a result, Ahmed ‘Hudeydi’ Ismail Hussein, a master oud player and one of Somali music’s greatest composers as well as Hassan Aadan Samatar, an iconic lead singer of Somalia’s now defunct national theatre Waaberi band, have endorsed Aar’s music as the bridge that links the old musical generation to the new one.

SWF is an integral part of Black History Month and offers the best of Somali arts and culture, both old and new.  On 23 October, Maxamed BK a Somali vocalist, songwriter and music composer, and the lead singer of Xidigaha Geeskar will stage his first concert during the launch of the weeklong festivities.  The son of one of the most popular folklore dancers, Said Erigawaabi, and since early childhood Maxamed followed in the footsteps of his father learning how to play the oud and developing a passion for the arts and culture. It was when he moved to Hargeysa, where he gained widespread popularity. Now a solo artist in his own right, he is a regular feature across Somali televisions and radio stations, and also a firm favourite at concerts.

Among other artists expected to perform during the Somali Week Festival is Sahra Ilays a talented vocalist and folklore dancer.  Sahra began her musical career as vocalist of the iconic band Waaberi, the most popular band in Somali history. She is now an established solo singer and regularly duets with Maxamed BK. 

Daud Ali Masahaf is another visiting artist, lute player and vocalist from Mogadishu who now resides in Djibouti. Masahaf is one of the greatest Somali lute players and has had the privilege of performing with legends like Magool, Khadra Daahir and Mandeeq. With 40 years of experience under his belt, he has upheld the tradition of lute playing throughout thevchanging faces of the Horn. Young musical talents: Kaltuun Bacado, Macalow and Mohamud Omar are also expected to perform on the closing night of the Somali Week Festival. 

The Somali Festival is an opportunity for artists to continue to explore alternative creative outlets for their work while also looking at ways of reviving traditional spaces that are vastly disappearing. Furthermore, the festival will be a space to investigate creative forms of collaboration amongst artists of different ages and levels of experience. The festival promises to provide a platform for the artists to share practices and to discuss, interact and work together.

The full Somali Week Festival program is available here.


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