Dur-Dur Band chooses Mpls. for first gig in 20 years
When Somalia collapsed into a civil war more than two decades ago, the nation's cultural community suffered.
For Somalis, a big blow came when the Dur-Dur Band, the country's preeminent party band of the 1980s, dissolved. Since then, its members have been separated far from their homeland.
Tonight, members of the popular musical group will take the stage for the first time in two decades in a show at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis. It's a reunion many Somalis dreamed would happen, but never believed possible.
"We are still in shock," said Fadumo Ibrahim, development assistant and Somali community liaison at the Cedar.
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When they heard that Dur-Dur Band was reuniting, Twin Cities Somalis bombarded Fadumo Ibrahim with questions about the show, incredulous that it could take place.
"Dur-Dur Band?!" they asked. "Are you SURE?"
Ibrahim and her coworkers were just as excited by their booking accomplishment as Somali music fans.
"We're like, 'Please, please, pinch me. Is this really happening?'" she said. "And it is happening."
The band has been rehearsing for the last week at the Cedar, the Somali-born musicians' first practices after a 20-year hiatus.
In pre-war Somalia, Dur-Dur Band was one of the most popular groups.
"Very, very, very famous," Ibrahim said.
Not long after its launch in 1981, the group was playing the biggest hotels in Mogadishu.
"There were other bands that were connected to the government to send the message the government is telling them. And then the government pays them," Ibrahim said. "But Dur-Dur Band was a private, organized band and their whole message at that time was to entertain people."
In the 1980s, the band released 12 albums and packed dance floors. But the group's musical momentum came to an abrupt halt when violence took over the capital, lead vocalist Abdinuur Daljir said.
"When the war just started, we decided we all should get out right now because it doesn't seem that something good is going to come out of this," he said.
In 1992, the members of Dur-Dur Band fled to Ethiopia. They spent 12 years there, waiting for refugee visas and playing music whenever they could. One by one, they were resettled abroad. Some landed in the United States and Canada, others in the United Kingdom.
Daljir went to Columbus, Ohio, where he still lives today.
"I felt really sad that we all had to go [to] different parts of the world," said Daljir, 42. "But at the same time, we always had hopes that one day we will find each other."
And they did, though a grant-funded project called Midnimo, the Somali word for "unity." It brings Somali musicians from around the world to Minnesota to promote understanding of Somali-Muslim culture.
At an afternoon practice at the Cedar Cultural, drummer Harbi, 50, can't help but think of when the band played late-nights gigs at sweltering Mogadishu clubs, even though he's rehearsing in a winter hat and pair of mukluks.
"And I say, 'Wow. This is something I could never imagine happening,'" Harbi said. "And I'm so glad this is happening right now."
While the band rehearses, 25-year-old Ibrahim dances in the back of the room, just like her parents did in Somali clubs when they were her age.
"This is crazy, funky disco!" she exclaimed with a laugh. "When it comes to the greater community, the non-Somalis, I want them to say, 'Whoa! In the '80s, this was their music? The Somali community? You guys rock!'
"I want people walking out of that door saying, 'Dur-Dur Band rocked the '80s and they still rock today.' That is my hope."