This album, recorded in 1987, is the fifth digital-age re-release of the masterful Dur-Dur Band, who were big stars in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, in the 1980s. This re-release, from Awesome Tapes From Africa, is true to the (internet) label’s name: the audio is re-mastered from cassette tapes, and, as a result, the crisp electronic drums and period-perfect synths sound right at home in a thin bed of tape-hiss. Dur-Dur’s four singers take turns floating beautiful, minor melodies over the pop and snap of tight guitars and bass, intersecting with horns and keyboards to create a unique pop sound. Their music brings us back to a brief period of time, before the political instability and violence of the last two decades, when Mogadishu was a place where live music flourished.
Dur-Dur Band delivers plenty of tight, MJ-inspired grooves on tracks such as ‘Halelo,’ ‘Amiina Awdaay’ and ‘Tajir Waa Ilaah,’ (which features the band’s one female singer, Sahra Dawo). This sound is a nice reminder of Michael Jackson’s global influence on the pop aesthetic of the era, in conversation with other local and international influences.This album also has a few special, slower songs with unique rhythms: specifically the deep, 6/8 grind of ‘Fagfagley,’ and ‘Garsore Waa Ilaah’ a seemingly afrobeat inspired track with a catchy instrumental call and response between the horns and the lead guitar.
Unfortunately, it seems that all we can hope for from Dur-Dur Band are more re-releases like this: when Somalia descended into civil war and violence in the early 1990s, the members of the band scattered around the world. For example, husband and wife Abdinur Daljir and Sahra Dawo live in Columbus, Ohio (read their story in the Columbia Dispatch ). At least we have releases like this to remind of a funkier time in the nation’s history.