Music

Analog Africa Digs Into Retro Somali Funk Group Dur-Dur Band's Deep Cuts

Dur-Dur Band continues to be one of the most transfixing East African pop groups of the 1980s, and this release is a stellar collection of even more gems.

Dur-Dur of Somalia: Volume 1, Volume 2 and Previously Unreleased Tracks
Dur-Dur Band

Analog Africa

21 September 2018

It's hard to imagine that, not so long ago, Dur-Dur Band was almost lost to the broader musical world, obscured by time and Somali political upheaval. Ever since Awesome Tapes from Africa reissued the 1987 cassette Volume 5 back in 2013, the band has become a staple for any collector of vintage African music. Now, Analog Africa returns with 18 more tracks from the legendary 1980s group on the heftily named Dur-Dur of Somalia: Volume 1, Volume 2 and Previously Unreleased Tracks. Of varying technical quality, the recordings are invariably full of what makes Dur-Dur Band so captivating even decades after their initial rise to fame in Mogadishu: entrancing funk, disco beats, and East African melody.

Somalia, the tip and southern border of the Horn of Africa, wraps around Ethiopia, a nation that has long been seen as the world music jewel of East Africa. Though Ethiopia bears the distinction of having never been colonized by the European groups that ripped apart the rest of the continent, including its eastern neighbor, Somali popular music also has certain aesthetic features that mark it as East African. The modes and brass here will strike a literal chord with fans of classic Ethio-jazz, while hypnotic choruses recall any number of trance-like traditions, especially those found along the Nile. Dur-Dur Band was, in fact, almost blackballed from the Somali music scene for focusing on those sounds less meant for a global market - which is where the disco comes in.

Dur-Dur Band is often specifically marketed as retro Somali disco, especially in retrospect. Certainly, the repetition lends itself well to the unstoppable quality of disco, as do the horns and synths that make up the bulk of Dur-Dur's sound. The production values, though, make the Dur-Dur sound stripped-down by necessity. The group's straight reggae jam "Diinleeya" embraces this with slow and open textures, while "Caashaqa Maxaa Il Baray" compensates with singer Sahra Abukar Dawo's voice in full melismatic force over psychedelic electric guitar. Never does the group sound like a thin take on their more orchestral disco influences; to the contrary, differences in resources force the group to make something entirely unique, a style that is funk, is jazz, is Somali, is global - and is sometimes none of those things, but is surely infectious.

Between the tracks of Volume 1 and Volume 2 are the two previously unreleased tracks, which could hardly be more different from each other as samples of Dur-Dur's music. "Salkudhigey" is fast music for sweaty dance floors, rising vocals soft over a genius guitar ostinato and staccato trumpets. On the other side of the Dur-Dur spectrum, "Haddi Aanan Gacaloy" has soulful organs and reggae backbeats, a sweetly-crooned jam for a distant VIP lounge. They are fantastic finds, no question.

A detailed booklet tells the abbreviated tale of Dur-Dur Band's rise from radio-run singing competition winners to superstardom, and it makes for an enlightening read. The narrator of the story is lead singer Shimaali Ahmed Shimaali - another good move on the part of Analog Africa, a label that, unlike many, typically makes at least an effort to get the original artists of a reissue involved. It also includes the thrilling tale of label founder Samy Ben Redjeb's "discovery" of Dur-Dur in 2007 and his death-defying ventures into Somalia - and these come across as a little unnecessary and perhaps even inappropriate next to the actual story of a singer who had to flee his own country and risk musical obscurity. On the whole, though, Dur-Dur Band continues to be one of the most transfixing East African pop groups of the 1980s, and this release is a stellar collection of even more gems.

9
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 1, Gang of Four to the Birthday Party

If we must #quarantine, at least give us some post-punk. This week we are revisiting the best post-punk albums of all-time and we kick things off with Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd., Throbbing Gristle, and more.

Music

Alison Chesley Toils in Human and Musical Connectivity on Helen Money's 'Atomic'

Chicago-based cellist, Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen Money) creates an utterly riveting listen from beginning to end on Atomic.

Music

That Kid's 'Crush' Is a Glittering Crossroads for E-Boy Music

That Kid's Crush stands out for its immediacy as a collection of light-hearted party music, but the project struggles with facelessness.

Books

Percival Everett's ​​​'Telephone​​​' Offers a Timely Lesson

Telephone provides a case study of a family dynamic shaken by illness, what can be controlled, and what must be accepted.

Reviews

Dream Pop's Ellis Wants to be 'Born Again'

Ellis' unhappiness serves as armor to protect her from despair on Born Again. It's better to be dejected than psychotic.

Music

Counterbalance No. 10: 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols'

The Spirit of ’77 abounds as Sex Pistols round out the Top Ten on the Big List. Counterbalance take a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. Right. Now.

Film

'Thor: Ragnarok' Destroys and Discards the Thor Mythos

Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok takes a refreshingly iconoclastic approach to Thor, throwing out the old, bringing in the new, and packaging the story in a colourful, gorgeously trashy aesthetic that perfectly captures the spirit of the comics.

Music

Alps 2 and Harry No Release Eclectic Single "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" (premiere)

Alps 2 and Harry NoSong's "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" is a dizzying mix of mangled 2-step rhythms and woozy tranquil electronics.

Music

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings Team for Wonderfully Sparse "Where Or When" (premiere)

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings' "Where Or When" is a wonderfully understated performance that walks the line between pop and jazz.

Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.