• Nearing its 40th year as an independent nation, the eastern Africa port country of Djibouti is considered one of the sturdier states in the continent. However, with four-term president Ismail Omar Guelleh squelching opposition by controlling the media, artists and other protesters risk their lives to have their voices heard. Here are five musicians and bands putting it all on the line to share their ideas and talents.

     

    Fatouma Mansour

    Called the “diva of song” by some admirers, Mansour blends the pentatonic scales of Eastern music with the shuffling beats of the Caribbean and the Iberian Peninsula. We were unable to find much information on the artist, but the sounds that are available will get you moving, no matter what your temperament. (Thank you to Worldly Rise for the introduction.)

     

    Kaltuun Bacado

    It takes a rare talent to make Auto-Tune sound fresh and soulful, but Kaltuun Bacado does just that. With a gleeful delivery and assured stature, the singer has a pop flair with traditional inflections. She’s relocated to London, and she takes with her a vibrant spirit and the legendary Afar (Somali-Arabic) tonality. (Thank you to the Mereja forums for the recommendation.)

     

    Abdirahman Xanxanteeye

    This good-natured performer in the vein of John Legend and Omar Souleyman has had audiences enraptured for years with high-energy records such as Filan. He is a big concert draw in Djibouti, and fans have called his synth-pop work “sublime.”

     

    Abdallah Lee

    Heralded as the king of Afar music, Abdallah Lee left behind a legacy of song when he died. A master of the gourd-like oud instrument, Lee continues to touch lives with his fluid tenor, poetic imagery and jubilant cadences. (Thanks to Nothin’ Sez Something for its deeper exploration of the artist.)

     

    Abdi Nour Allaleh

    Dig that incredible wah-bass action behind funk and disco master Abdi Nour Allaleh. The 1970s auteur had an indescribable cool that still has music fiends clamoring to collect his recordings. His art was Motown-meets-cape-town, throbbing and industrial with just the right amount of seaside chill.

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