Saturday, August 9, 2008

Tubeec: A Look at Somali King of Music

Popularly known in Somalia and in the Diaspora as the 'Boqorkii Codka' or 'King of Music', Mohamed Suleiman (Tubeec) has the qualities of a modern musician. A soft-spoken man who polished his career through hard work in the Somali music industry, Tubeec has to his credit almost half a century of singing with numerous collection of songs in tapes and CDs. With the advancement of technology and communication, many of his songs have been converted into music videos available in VHS and DVD forms. His meteoric rise saw him play in Pan-African conventions most notably in Nigeria where he sang with the famous Magool (deceased) in the then capital city Lagos.

His captivating voice aired in various radio stations including the BBC Somali Service, Voice of Kenya, Voice of Addis Ababa, Radio Moscow, Radio Hargeisa in Somalia, Radio Djibouti, Voice of America Somali Service, Radio Mogadishu and the list could be endless. For the four decades the Somali music industry has been in existence, none among Somali male vocalists has been fortunate enough to shatter the golden voice of Tubeec though a few dared come too close. Omar Dhule and Abdi Tahlil Warsame are the only musicians with voices comparable to that of Tubeec.

Tubeec has been a source of inspiration among the young and old of Somalia in theatrical performances and in many popular social gatherings, in cafes, shops, in open and closed markets, in cars and in buses, in private homes and playgrounds. He could always be seen surrounded by uncountable number of fans who josstled for a glimpse of his natural image during national celebrations, Eid festivals, international events, and commemmorations in the heydays of the central government.

His fascinating and titillating voice instilled love and affection in many raptured hearts; his articulate mention of events audible in his songs rhymed with the musical love of his audience, his rambunctious character attracted throngs of admirers who would be seen giving him rapturous applause, clapping hands, dancing to the tune, and even demanding a rerun of a just concluded performance. The famous Hobolada Waaberi or the Dawn Troupe had been his base for many years. Housed in the famous Mogadishu Theatre, Hobolada Waaberi entertained the Somali nation until the collapse of the military junta.

Bespectacled Tubeec had a host of female vocalists including Sahra Ahmed Jama and Halima Khalif Magol-a duo described by many as the 'Queens of Somali Music'. When on stage, Tubeec is known to hold the microphone in his left hand while at the same using his right hand for making gestures. He often appears on stage in smart suits though he would doff off his coat when the room temperature rose to a boiling point-that is when the audience got out of control-agitated by the tremendous sounds of the instruments played in the background by a select group of well-rehearsed guitarists, trombonists, and pianists.

Some of his songs include 'Hooyo'-a tribute to the importance of our mothers in mothering and motherhood; he delves into the general character of a mother, her aspects of raising children, and her place in our life. I think no musician, living or dead has covered the broad role of a mother in musical form. 'Deeqa'-the name of another prominent song refers to a Somali mademoiselle to whom he showers praise.

As Somali music is tasteless without mentioning the beauty of the fauna and flora, Tubeec's song 'Jaawo Geel' describes the beauty and grandeur of a female lover that he compares to the Camel-an animal referred to as 'the beast of the desert' by an early European traveler through the Middle East and Africa-even though the song is primarily about love.

Tubeec will continue to reign as the 'Father of Somali Music' until such a time when an overwhelming new voice emerges within the Diaspora or inside of Somalia-a voice that will unanimously appeal to all Somali speaking people and permeate the hearts of the young and old, men and women alike.

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