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Interview with Kenyan-Somali Musician
Abdihakeem Affey aka Jabarti
on Wagalla Massacre Song

August 22, 2012

Editor’s Note

A wind of change is just sweeping across Kenya’s predominantly Somali population. For a long time, Kenya-Somalis depended on Somalia’s music industry for their daily entertainment. However, after the collapse of the military government in 1991, protracted insecurity and widespread looting led Somali music archives to disintegrate, thus sending Somali musicians packing to find refuge in various parts of the world. Many Somali musicians settled in Nairobi’s sprawling Eastleigh suburb to start life from scratch. A few musicians from the tiny nation of Djibouti appeared in the Somali music in pre and post Somalia collapse. In modern times, young and talented musicians seem to be increasing in number and gaining momentum by using modern technology like the internet with YouTube becoming a staging ground for many new and older musicians.

Abdihakeem Affey who is also known as Jabarti has just released his first recorded song Wagalla Massacre. The song decries the horrors of the 1984 Wagalla Massacre in which Kenya-Somalis were rounded up by the Kenya security forces and made to sit in an earth scorched airfield in Wajir town without food, water, and sanitation for days. It was here where hundreds of innocent civilians were massacred, raped, and manhandled by Kenya’s dreaded security forces. Despite national outcry and international condemnation, the perpetrators of the massacre have not been brought to book yet. To revive the horrors of Wagalla Massacre and seek legal action for the innocent lives that were lost, WardheerNews presents to you the interview with Kenya-Somali musician Abdihakeem Affey and his song Wagalla Massacre. He was interviewed by Adan Makina.
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Abdihakeem Jabarti
Abdihakeem Jabarti; Somali Kenyan musician
and vocalist
WardheerNews: Could you please give our readers a background history of your life before getting on the music stage.

Abdihakeem: I am the 6th born in a family of 11; was born in Wajir, Kenya. I did my lower and upper primary education at Hodan primary school, Wajir. Thereafter, I proceeded to St. Paul’s  High school-Kevote, Embu for my high school certificate after which I went to Agra University and Punjab University in India and graduated with Bachelor’s in Business Administration (BBA) and Master’s in Business Administration (MBA-Marketing) respectively. I have worked with international companies and NGO’s in Kenya and in Somalia for almost 3 and a half years but now I’m officially based in Nairobi working with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MoWI), Government of Kenya.

WardheerNews: You have just released a song on the infamous Wagalla Massacre that was instigated by the Kenya government in 1984 on the helpless residents of Wajir town located in North Eastern Province that is predominantly populated by a Somali population. What message does the song convey?

Abdihakeem: The main message of the song was to inform people that the massacre happened and it is real and to share with the Somali population and the entire world about the horrors of Wagalla massacre.

Wagalla massacre victims
WardheerNews: Could you please educate our readers on the significance of Wagalla Massacre and why it matters a lot to you and those affected victims and survivors alike?

Abdihakeem: We realized that it was the intention of some people to bury the reality of the massacre and make the world forget about the whole thing. This prompted me and my team to do something about that issue and as a poetic community we came up with the idea of the song. My family and I were not personally affected but I remember the devastation and horror the massacre created in me as a child. This was after seeing my school and classmates and childhood friends who lost their fathers and brothers in the massacre cry every day. I saw their mothers in the Catholic Rehabilitation Center in Wajir which was under the care of Annalena Tonelli, a Catholic nun who spent time and effort caring for destitute families in Wajir.  I do have a memory of the massacre and at times do cry whenever I remember how horrifying it was.

WardheerNews: How long have you been involved in the music industry?

Abdihakeem: As far as I can remember, music has been my thing. In primary school I used to be choir leader and in high school, I have been an active member of poetry and arts club. I received certificates for being the best soloist in Eastern province and won awards at the national level, but in the modern music, I’m in the industry for one year now.

WardheerNews: Is this your first song or there are other songs we are unaware of?
Abdihakeem: I have been a stand-up singer in many functions in India and I never cared of recording in real studio, until this Wagalla waddani song came up. It is safe to say, Wagalla isn’t the first song I sung but it is the first I recorded and released.
WardheerNews: Did you compose the song yourself or is it someone else’s lyrics?

Abdihakeem: The idea is mine, but the song was composed by Abwaan Ina Cawsgurow.

WardheerNews: What prompted you to sing this song?

Abdihakeem: Pain, what else?  Wagalla happened larger than life itself. It happened to my hometown, to my people.

WardheerNews: Do you think your song will impact many Kenya-Somalis? What do you think will be the song’s impact on the Kenya government’s attitude towards Kenya-Somalis?

Abdihakeem: Being the first musician from NFD, I believe many Kenyan-Somalis will take pride sharing my song and work. We know very well that we have many talented young people in the region who are capable of singing and writing songs but due to lack of influence and courage, they tend to remain silent and that talent dies within them. So yes, I believe my work will impact many people from NFD, positively. Regarding the Kenyan government, I think their attitudes towards us have changed positively many years ago; they knew about Wagalla massacre and they never denied doing it, but due to corruption and impunity within the government, the case always goes under the rag. We are planning to produce a Swahili version of this song soon. I know that will impact the government as well.

WardheerNews: Has the song been printed on CD yet?

Abdihakeem: Yes, it has been printed on CD.

Wagalla Massacre victim, Mr Abdullahi Shuuriye
Mr Abdilahi Shurie (centre), a victim of the Wagalla Massacre, is led away from the public hearing on the atrocities on April 18. 2011. Photo: Stephen Mudiari | NATION
WardheerNews: Do you have other musical projects in mind slated for release in the near future?

Abdihakeem: Yes I do, I have waddani songs in the pipeline that I will be releasing soon, insha Allah. We also have plans to start plays in the Somali language and also in Swahili and to have collaboration with other musicians in the country through our organization, Wadayaal cultural Program International-www.wadayaal.com.

WardheerNews: Thanks for giving WardheerNews your precious time.

Abdihakeem: You are welcome, and thank you for giving me this precious opportunity.

Other interviews that WardheerNews had with Somali professionals and scholars

- An Interview with Major Gen. Ahmed Sh. Farah of the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) of Kenya
- WARAYSI  AAN  CAADI  AHAYN - Inj. Caydaruus Cismaan Keenadiid: Ifin Dulmar Ah oo Ku Saabsan Taariikh-nololeedkii Cismaan Yuusuf Cali (Cismaan Keenadiid) 1899-1972
- A Touching Glimpse of History and the Reunion of a Somali Royalty
- Wareysi: Dr. George Kapchits.
- Welcome to Shelbyville: A Documentary Review
- An Interview with Dr. Mohamed Omer, the FM of Somaliland
- WDN Interview with Nadifa Mohamed: The Author of Black Mamba Boy
- Interview with Amb Abdillahi Said Osman
- WardheerNews Interview with Sheila Andrzejewski
- An interview with Dr. Alim Ahmed Fatah
- A Conversation with Ali Fatah: Chief of the GIS Division - D.C Goverment
- Conversation with Somali Ambassador in Ethiopia
- An Interview with Dr. Edmond Keller of UCLA
- An Interview with Ismail Mohamud Hurre, the FM of the TFG of Somalia
- Interview by WardheerNews: Abdi Roble and Doug Rutledge

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