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Sweet As Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes From The Horn Of Africa (CD)

In case anyone ever tries to argue against the disintegrating barriers of countries caused by globalization in the 21st century, all you have to do is look at the vast trove of musical treasures that are constantly being excavated and brought to new ears. Sweet As Broken Dates is a collection of rare tapes and reels literally dug up from the earth. When the Somali civil war was at its brink in 1988, the authoritarian leader Siad Barre planned on attacking the northern part of the country that was fighting for independence. When employees at Radio Hargeisa feared for their musical heritage, the staff grabbed piles upon piles of tapes and magnetic reels to bury in the ground or send to countries like Ethiopia before their radio station was leveled as part of a strategic movement by Barre to suppress any subversive or revolutionary thought. Thirty years later, our ears get to hear the newly digitized and restored versions of these tapes for the first time. Unlike so many compilations of Africa that show the unique sounds of one particular country, region or ethnic group, this collection explores the diversity and cross-pollination of Somali music. Aamina Carmini's perfectly titled "Men are Cruel and Kind" shows not only an inflection of soul and funk, but also a rich variation in Southeast Asian music. There's a sense of Indian and Thai music mixed in to give the track a beautiful strangeness. The synth playfulness, dub rhythm, and powerful performance makes it seem modern with its low-fi mellowness. Alternatively, a track like 4 Mars' "Guide Us" seems to be specifically affected by the 45s of the '70s. There's a disco chorus singing right out of a Boney M track accompanied by some guitar funk that's influenced by hits like "Tighten Up." With the amazing (and endless) array of diverse and musical styles to explore, Sweet As Broken Dates is the perfect tome to encapsulate the sound and feeling of a specific moment in history and, in a way, is a statement against war and its effect on art and culture.

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