Round Midnight presents Sahra Halgan

Norwich Lanes

Sahra Halgan is an iconic artist from Somaliland, formerly a British protectorate in the Horn of Africa, and an independent country since 1991, although unrecognised by the international community. In the 1980s, during the war in reaction to the terrible repression of Siad Barré, the dictator of neighbouring Somalia, she earns her nickname “Halgan”, the fighter, and her songs win the hearts of an entire people forever. An improvised nurse at the front, defying tribal and family conventions, she sings to heal the wounded and encourage the fighters.

But the fratricidal fighting that marks the end of the war forces her into exile, and it is France that grants her political asylum. What follows is a life familiar to millions of uprooted people in Europe: discreet integration from below, raising a family, hard work… 20 hard years that take her away from music.

At the beginning of the 2010s in Lyon, with Aymeric Krol on percussion (BKO from MALI) and Maël Salètes on electric guitar (Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp, L’étrangleuse), she starts the Sahra Halgan Trio which generates a small but steady following among European audiences and the diaspora, who have never forgotten her. The trio invents a minimalist form with a raw sound that they develop over two albums, carried by Sahra’s unique voice and her tireless political commitment to the recognition of her country. From tiny venues to prestigious festivals on three continents, the originality of the group’s music is confirmed at the Transmusicales de Rennes in 2019.

Since 2013, Sahra Halgan has returned to her hometown of Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, to fulfil a long-held dream to help re-found her country: the creation of a place dedicated to live music and poetry, ‘Hiddo Dhawr’ (‘Preserve Culture’). This is the name the band has chosen for their new album.

The culmination of a long and close friendship, many travels and a quest for the essence of Somali music through a unique group sound, this third album places more than ever an age-old music at the heart of a modernity that is out of the ordinary, out of fashion and out of time. Traditional poetry from centuries past, songs of celebration and dance, love songs, political demands – Sahra’s voice deploys all its warmth, its ornaments, its irony or its seriousness, its mystery and its dignity, thus conveying the history of her people and its presence in the world, its tragedies and its joys.

In echo, stripped of all artifice, each instrument delivers all of its power in uncompromising simplicity: earthy, abrasive guitar riffs, solar drum grooves whose timbres combine tradition and modernity. Régis Monte, a newcomer to the band, enchants each track with acid bass, vintage organs and proto-electronic flights of fancy. ‘Hiddo Dhawr’ is the fruit of a sincere quest for authenticity and innovation, an unprecedented alliance between Somali song and original rock.