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Most of Somaliland love songs appear contentious, almost the vain cry of unrequited love. In spite of their beautiful lyrics, they may sound monotonous. Not this one! I have searched this song for nearly twenty years for two reasons: it marks a crucial time in the history of Somaliland, and it departs from the antagonistic love abounding Somaliland songs. It is called “Dhambaal,” a message to a loving partner. Some of the sounds and images may have never been expressed in public before and may have sprung over the boundaries of morality. However, that might be its very lure.
The song is simply a message addressing all that bind lovers. Its amorous thrums reveal a healthy relationship between lovers. That profuse “deaf woman” paradigm of male courting is humanized with sensual seductive, soothing strokes. The composer (Perhaps a woman) reaches out to a distant partner through Magool’s most melodious voice. While this song might not have been to a man or even to someone in the gulf, its timing and message fit into a period of mass migration to the Middle East.
After a severe draught pounded some of our regions, a mass exodus of our able men to the Arabian Peninsula occurred which was a double edge sword for our society in Somaliland. This song reverberates on the aftermath of a long brewing famine in the then northeastern regions of the Somali Democratic Republic that was hushed by the uncompassionate Southern government characteristic of governments that had ruled our land. Thousands of people and livestock perished within few months during which time, three high-level fact-finding government missions were visiting the area. Two missions from the south denied there was any disaster. The third delegate, who was from that region, called it a disaster of immense magnitude. He announced his plea over the BBC Somali Service asking the United Nations and the international world for immediate intervention.
For the next few years, UNICEF and other UN agencies airlifted thousands of people and livestock from north to the southern river bands. Famine survivors met with new local disaster: diseases unknown to the semi arid dwellers of Somaliland killed half of the famine survivors. In that harvesting transition, Schistosomiasis and Bilharzia claimed many more lives. In order for our displaced people to return home, Somaliland men and youth labored under the severe conditions in the gulf. Arabian money had saved millions of families whose sustenance came from the gulf but that departure was also the first time our women and children were left unprotected from Siyad Barre’s mercenaries. He seized the chance to install his systematic genocide. Therefore, while this song marks one aspect of Siyad Barre’s apartheid rule, it also departs from the regular Petrarchan love for “Laura”. The composer is no Laura. S/he could be a real person who reveals his/her feelings unrestrained and conveys not only her/his love, but fear as well. This song, sung by Magool, one of Somalia’s diva has not come about as just another song. It is the outpouring passion of an ordinary partner to another. The song though erotic plays on neutral language that obscures the gender of speaker and listener. Great literature, we suppose, has universal appeal and must mimic reality. This song enmeshes self and other through imagination. What is that resounding echo? Do we hear the voice of a man or a woman? Or both? If great literature transcends the mundane, The songwriter, like John Keats, eliminates the distance between them in a blur. If indeed, the composer is a woman, Her ingenious mind shrouds her candor in the neutrality of language thus mitigates any outrage from the audience. Poetic ambiguity is one of highest literary forms and must have been a clever and careful manipulation in a gender specific language like Somali. Dhambaal’s linguistic intrigue does not end here.
The glottal consonant “H” combined with open and closed vowels creates all kinds of emotions in the poem. It invite and responds, coos and cuddles. Words like hee/yea, haa/yes reinforce its positive image in a conversational tone. S/he teases the other in an innocent but provocative way. Her/his unrestrained hum, seriousness, anxiety, and sensuality all wrapped in the simple message “ I miss you” arouses the sympathy of the listener.
Love is as important as money, health, and the demand for fidelity. It is a heartfelt animated plea for news of a lover. If the songwriter is a woman, physical distance now heightens her anxiety of polygamy that hangs over every Somali relationship even if travel never separates them. In this separation, the other is likely not just to flirt but to nest elsewhere. While this song surprises me in its candid sensuality, its vivid images that have until its appearance were private, it entices me too for its openness in a culture that keeps such sensuality under wraps. It teases without offending. Rather, the listener sympathizes with a smile.
If nothing else, “Dhambaal” personalizes the long impersonal and contentious male/female wooing. At last, Venus, in her power of persuasion, seems to have tamed Mars and earns her title wo/man with honors.
Hohay dunidaneey kala haatiyay. -- Oh! A world that flings apart!
Naftu waxay u hibatoo ay haaban -- So much reminisce a mortal.
Weydoo ku hanqaara badanaa. -- So deeply, afflict yet unreachable.
Laba aan is hurin oo -- Two inseparable souls
Haddana aan is haynoo -- that cannot concur.
Intuu caashaq wada helay -- Desire smitten couple
Hayaan kala fogaadoo -- traverse thusly apart.
Kala heeray waayuhu -- Rent asunder by circumstance.
Mid waliba halkiisu -- Each forlorn -------
La jiifaa haraadkee -- languish athirst--------
Halkaad ku nigadahay -- In your realm
Maxaad caawa haysaa? -- How do you fare tonight?
Hawada caafimaadkaaga -- The breeze of your zest
Iyo heerka noloshaada? -- Your zeal, soundness and
Hayntaada jeebkiyo sidee -- The bounty in your pocket?
Hawshu kugu tahayee? -- Are you overwrought?
Hibashad xusuusta Hurdo -- In longing and retrospection
Kaama seexdee, wadnaha i -- Sleepless I spur. My heart
Habayee, kaaguna ma heema? -- Spews, does yours spurt?
Haasawaheenii ma u soo helowdaa? -- Do you covet our interchange?
Habeenkii kulkay tahay ma la ikaa horkeena? -- At night, does my apparition arise?
Haaaaaa hareertaada gogosha, hiiiiiii ma ku. -- Haaa in bed beside you, do you
Haabataa gacan? Huuuuu sida geel haleela -- reach with your arm? Eeeeh! Like an
Hiii hoose miyaad ka reentaa? -- Impassioned camel, do you groan -- gravely?
Hamuumta iyo xiisaha ma is hasanweydaa? -- Does want overwhelm you?
Sia hobol caan baxay kalidaa ma heestaa? -- Like famous soloist, do you croon alone?
Habalyada salaantiyo ma heshaa waraaqaha? -- Do you receive greetings ‘N letters?
Hudhud ama ku lumiyoo heedhe la isku keen diray. -- What ‘f you be adrift, avouch gossipmongers
Amad halacsataayoo ku hawiratay meel kale. -- What ‘f you flirt ‘N nestle with another
Caashaqii horeeyiyoo keenii halmaantaa. --- Discard, and disregard ‘R love,
Haatufkiyo dabaylaha war la hubo -- Do send me your pledge
U soo dhiib, kaygana mar iga hoo. -- By phone or wind and hear mine
Hoobee laba shub weeyaanee. -- Hobee hobee the profusion of my emotions
Heedhe ma I maqlaysaayee? Hayey hayey! --- Do you hear me? O! Yea! O! Yea!
Hindisuhu siduu qabo -- As future plans may have
Hadmaad Iman (ahhhh) bal ii sheeg. --- Do tell me when are you are coming.
Hor Alle waan ku sugayaa. -- By God, I anticipate in earnest.
By Rhoda Raghe, UAE