Ostinato recovers tracks from tapes preserved underground during the Somali Civil War
When the Somali civil war broke out in 1988, a few operators at Radio Hargeisa realised their building would be targeted by air strikes and took it upon themselves to remove the station's cassette and master reel collection. They dispersed the tapes among sympathisers in neighbouring countries or even buried them deep enough underground to survive bombs and fires.
Recently these recordings have been recovered or excavated and now reside at the Red Sea Foundation in Hargeisa, and New York label Ostinato has set about digitising the collection, from which Label founders Vik Sohonie & Nicolas Sheikholeslami have compiled Sweet As Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes From The Horn Of Africa.
The chosen tracks are directly taken from the original homemade or master recordings. “Somali music’s golden age, curiously, occurred under a socialist military dictatorship, which effectively nationalised the music industry,” Sohonie explains. “A thriving scene was owned entirely by the state. Music was recorded for and by national radio stations and only disseminated through public broadcasts or live performances. Private labels were virtually nonexistent. This music was never made available for mass release. Almost all recorded material came from original masters or homemade recordings of radio broadcasts. As a result, most of it has never been heard outside Somalia and the immediate region.”