Somali hip-hop band fighting al-Shabaab for hearts and minds
Waayaha Cusub remain defiant despite bearing the scars of the Islamist group, whose reach has extended to Nairobi
Clar Ni Chonghaile in Nairobi
Shine Ali doesn’t scare easily. If he did, he would not be with his band in a basement studio in Nairobi, rapping lyrics that challenge the Islamist rebels who control much of his homeland, Somalia – and whose reach extends deep into the Kenyan capital.
Ali is well aware of the risks he is running. Three years ago, members of the al-Shabaab group broke into his home in Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighbourhood and shot him.
“They said, ‘Your message is anti-jihad. You are telling the youth to give up jihad,’” the 29-year-old says in halting English. Ali edges down his baggy checked shorts, pulls up his hooded sweatshirt and shows a scar on his right hip. He has another one on his left arm.
“When they shot me, I knew that if I stopped the music, they would win but if I continued, my power would win.”
In one of the tracks — “Send Me a Cruise” (.mp3), as in cruise missile — Hammami portrays himself as a sort of jihadist Tupac: distantly aware of a grim fate that awaits him, but fearless nonetheless. “There’s nothing as sweet as the taste of a tank shell,” he tells listeners.
It’s a tough image to pull off, though. He sounds more like Somalia’s Vanilla Ice, mumbling his way through hokey lyrics with too many syllables inartfullly crammed into too few beats. Using lines like “Or better yet send me a cruise, and send me on a cruise” to express his hope for a cruise missile-aided “martyrdom” don’t help his reputation as a lyricist, either.
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