After being blown away by a few tunes - probably just as you will be after listening to this - Samy Ben Redjeb travelled to the infamous capital city of Somalia in November of 2016, making Analog Africa the first music label to set foot in Mogadishu. On his arrival in Somalia Samy began rifling through piles of cassettes and listening to reel-to-reel tapes in the dusty archives of Radio Mogadishu, looking for music that ‘swam against the current’. The stars were aligned: an uncovered and unmarked pile of discarded recordings was discovered in a cluttered corner of the building. Colonel Abshir - the senior employee and protector of Radio Mogadishu’s archives - clarified that the pile consisted mostly of music nobody had manage to identify, or music he described as being ‘mainly instrumental and strange music’. At the words ‘strange music’ Samy was hooked, the return flight to Tunisia was cancelled. The pile turned out to be a cornucopia of different sounds: radio jingles, background music and interludes for radio programmes, television shows and theatre plays. There were also a good number of disco tunes, some had been stripped of their lyrics, the interesting parts had been recorded multiple times then cut, taped together and spliced into a long groovy instrumental loop. Like everywhere in Africa during the 1970s, both men and women sported huge afros, bell-bottom trousers and platform shoes. James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and The Temptations’ funk were the talk of the town. In 1977, Iftin Band were invited to perform at the Festac festival in Lagos where they represented Somalia at the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture.
Not only did they come back with an award but they also returned with Afrobeat. While Fela Kuti’s Shakara had taken over the continent and was spreading like wildfire throughout Latin America, it was the track Lady that would become the hit in Mogadishu. Mogadisco was not Analog Africa’s easiest project. Tracking down the musicians - often in exile in the diaspora - to interview them and gather anecdotes of golden-era Mogadishu has been an undertaking that took three years. Tales of Dur-Dur Band’s kidnapping, movie soundtracks recorded in the basements of hotels, musicians getting electrocuted on stage, others jumping from one band to another under dramatic circumstances, and soul singers competing against each other, are all stories included in the massive booklet that accompanies the compilation - adorned with no less than 50 pictures from the ‘70s and ‘80s. As Colonel Abshir Hashi Ali, chief don at the Radio Mogadishu archive - someone who once wrestled a bomber wielding an unpinned hand-grenade to the floor - put it: ‘I have dedicated my life to this place. I’m doing this so it can get to the next generation; so that the culture, the heritage and the songs of Somalia don’t disappear.’