Whether you live in Ottawa, Barcelona, Johannesburg, Riyadh, Dhaka, Ulan Bator, Jakarta, Christchurch, Yamagata, Lima, San Francisco, or New York, there are two things that people tend to gravitate to – food and music. They are two things that cut across all cultures and bring together people of different nationalities and ethnicities and across all ages. Aar Maanta is one exemplary individual who is attempting to introduce the world to the beautiful sounds of Somali.
Currently living in London, United Kingdom, Maanta was born in Jijiga, the capital of the Somali region in Ethiopia, and he and his family immigrated to the UK in the early ’90s following the Somali civil war. At a young age, he was attracted to music and the energy it produces among people and within oneself. However, he was dissuaded from pursuing his love for music and instead encouraged to obtain a degree, which he did achieve by completing a Degree in Science.
His attraction to music, though, would soon prove to be too powerful, and in 2004 he returned to his first love. But instead of recording and producing hip hop, rap, or recognizable forms of Afro beat, Maanta wanted to share with the world the music of his native country. Through his own “Horn 2 Groove” studio, he has been mixing traditional Somali music with pop, hip hop, and rock, and this merging of genres has come to be known as “Afro Hop”. In 2009, Maanta released his debut album, Hiddo & Dhaqan, and earlier this year he released an EP, Somali Songs from the Diaspora.
While I don’t speak Somalian or Arabic, Maanta’s album proves that music knows no bounds. Through the traditional rhythms of his Somali culture to interlacing the sounds of the electric guitar and bass, Somali Songs from the Diaspora is a powerful, poignant piece of music. It is uplifting and inspiring, mind-blowing and exciting. Listening to the EP is a spiritual experience, much like legendary Congolese band Konono No. 1 with its upbeat tempo and ability to bring people of different races and cultures up off their feet and dancing to the rhythmic sounds of Maanta’s homeland.
Maanta’s desire to introduce Somali music to the world also resonates with his approach to making music. The project is not just his own but one that he shares with his band, which is a multinational composition. His band members include guitarist Maciek Pysk from Poland; Nahini Doumbia who play percussion and is originally from Mali; Italian Ruth Goller, who plays bass; and Pharaoh Smeaton-Russell, who plays drums and was born in India to a Nepalese mother and Scottish father.
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