New Dawn

Waaberi, 1997

A circle of singers sit on decorated pillows, drinking sweet tea. The atmosphere is intense but relaxed as they slowly warm up, singing their way through old songs of love and death, of the beautiful lover with the long neck, of desire and of the sensible advice of the wise old men.

This is the good life. Lots of talk and music among friends, witty and sharp comments back and forth between performers and audience - this is no passive crowd. People sing and play along gently, always respecting the direction and authority of the master singers. When the song culminates, or when the singer ad-libs a double entendre lyric variation, they explode in laughter and shouting. There is no amplification. To hear the singer, musicians keep the volume down while maintaining the high energy. Traditionally, the nomads could not afford to carry instruments on the camels, so they learnt to beat on the nearest thing that sounded good; today, teacups and bottles are perfect percussion instruments - clear, but not loud. The musicians follow every little sign and wink as they support the lead singer, interpreting the sorrow and joy of the people.

On this album, Waaberi is joined by Egyptian master percussionist Hossam Ramzy. They had a lot of fun together, proving that Somali and Middle Eastern music is still closely related. These performers are the elite of the National Theatre - once a great troupe of musicians, dancers and actors before civil war destroyed everything.

Waaberi is the Somali world for morning. After years of exile, some of the artists have finally found each other again. I think they will manage to create a new dawn for Somali music.


  • Its simple beauty is irresistible... ...and the musicians and singers enhance that simplicity with high levels of musicianship and a subdued passion. 4 August 1997 CMJ New Music Report (1997) (US)
  • ...a modest, graceful chamber music led by Mursal’s resonant, dramatic tenor. It’'s far and away the most striking piece of New Dawn, a deep, fluid voice that’s pushed all the way to the front of the mix. November 1997 Option (US)
  • New Dawn is an intoxicating album, full of warmth... energy and hope. Leamington Observer (1997) (UK)
  • .. this is a gloriously accessible... ...upbeat collection of nomadic dance songs that sound like an arabic-tinged form of raw R'n'B ... The Guardian (1997) (UK)
  • Mursal and her ensemble draw on a potent mix of African and Arabic influences to create music that is at once pensive and propulsive, full of subtle rhythm and reverence. 27 July 1997 Philadelphia Enquirer (USA)
  • Raw, hypnotic and powerful tunes of traditional and modern Somalia - beautiful and cruel, African and Arabic ... music that carries the ethereal quality of the oud and the wonderful earthiness of Afro-percussion. October 1997 Spirit (UK)
  • ...a joyous collection of traditional Somali rhythms... ...powerful love songs and infectuous dance tunes that is also influenced by the singer's love of Western jazz. Mursal's is a remarkable story of human endurance. Billboard (1997) (USA)
  • Her singing is very accessible to Western ears... Mursal, blessed with a low contralto voice of sinuous grace and depth, achieves tension, tenderness and danger ... Her singing is very accessible to Western ears... Folk Roots (1997) (UK)
  • Maryam Mursal sings with profound emotion. 31 October 1997 Gothenburg Post (Sweden)