This article is a tribute to one of the greatest Somaliland singer /songwriter /composer /arranger /0ud player/actor, Omer Dhuule, who passed away, at the beginning of the new millennium. He literally committed to memory hundreds, if not thousands of Somaliland “Qaraami” songs or oldies. This took great dedication, stamina and a continuous and rigid lonely schedule in order to memorize the lyrics of these important songs.
Omer was endowed with a powerful memory that allowed him to store what no other person of his calibre could. These lyrics were not confined only to the Qaraami or old songs, but also included hundreds of songs from classical to contemporary Somaliland songs. No wonder both the older and younger generations loved him. Some people consider the untimely death of this son of Somaliland a tragedy, which perhaps equals in magnitude, the burning down of a major library. In the following pages, we attempt to give our readers a brief sketch of the artist and his music.
Omer Dhuule began his musical career in 1955 during the colonial days when Somaliland was still under British Colonialism. His first appearance on stage was the once in a lifetime chance that actors dream about. He performed as the leading “actress” in a play, written and directed by the late genius, Mohamed Ismail, “Barkhad Cas”, who was also a nationalist freedom activist and poet. Since women were not allowed to perform in public at that time, Ornar played the role of a leading actress. He gave an exceptional performance that is remembered by fellow actors to this day. The great singer and musician, Ahmed Ali, “Drum,” who played the leading actor, characterizes Omer’s acting as something no other actor can ever emulate. This extra ordinary and exceptional talent both as an actor and a singer, won him praise and respect through the years by fellow actors, musicians, directors, poets, singers and the public alike.
It was in 1962, according to a Somaliland poet, Ahmed Suleman Bide, Omer Dhuule, while visiting Burao, the second biggest city in Somaliland, first met the great “Oud” player, Mohamoud Sh Ismail “Xudaydi.” It was at this time that the great master showed few notes to Omer Dhuule. “Omer began to practice day and night, until he became a master teacher of his own and a great instrumentalist,” said Ahmed Suleman Bide.
By the late 1960′S, Omer created his own style of playing the “Oud.” He also became a superstar. The (BBC) British Broadcasting Company’s Somali service used to play his songs on the airwaves continuously. His recordings, therefore, exceed several well-known singers combined. The Somali speaking communities around the world considered Omer one of the most admirable singer/musician/acto r and poet of all time. 0mer also had become through the years, one of Somaliland’s musical patriarchs. Though his music is dark hued at first since he always sang about the rift between him and his wife, or lost love, i.e., “Ha Laanoo Garnaqo” or “We Need Counseling.” But the music gradually brightens and is full of interesting musical and singing’ imagery of love and romance. His sweet voice is compared to Teddy Pendergrass or Marvin Gaye.
The most interesting aspect of Omar’s music and “Oud” playing is the degree to which it draws on Xudaydi’s style of “Oud” playing. A close illustration of this aspect is a recording he did with his daughters in the early 1980′S. This tape is by far the best and finest piece performed by him. It has a gentle texture, like Xudaydi’s, that gives the music and singing a sense of mystery. In the tape, Omer Dhuule’s excellent performance sweeps the listener into the music, since the sound is so cohesive. There is also a spectacular “Oud” playing that reminds one of “Xudaydi,” Omer’s mentor and the sexy sensual voices of his daughters had a graceful, alluring flow and appealing sense of intimacy.
It is a tragedy that Omer Dhuule has to die outside of his homeland without a hero’s welcome. Somaliland will not only miss a man who was ahead of his time and a hero; but Somaliland also misses someone who is equal of importance to the Somalilanders as the library of Congress in the United States is to the Americans. Somaliland truly misses one of its favorite sons! May he rest in peace