World premiere and film tour coming soon in 2015-2016 | A Humanitarian Bazaar Production. Starring Shiine Akhyaar, Falis Abdi, Digriyow Abdi and the band Waayaha Cusub. Featuring K’naan, Ilwad Elman, Hodan Abdirahman, Dalmar Yare, Lihle Muhudin, Burhan Ahmed Yare, Ali Dhaanto, Alsarah, Kombo Chokwe & Afro Simba Band, Ariana Delawari, Qais Essar, DZA the Dissenter, Uppanotch, Toni Blackman, Jake Simkin, and many more. Written, Produced, & Directed by Daniel J Gerstle. Special thanks to the United Nations, Development Pictures, Bill Brookman Foundation, Freemuse, Cultures of Resistance, more to be listed here soon. For the launch schedule, screenings, press, and other questions, contact us at Humanitarianbazaar@gmail.com.
Somalia hiphop peace activist group Waayaha Cusub (New Era) with help from Humanitarian Bazaar and an international coalition of allies led the dangerous Somali Sunrise Concert Tour for Peace to its climax at the Mogadishu Music Festival in war torn Somalia. Aiming to persuade at-risk youth away from war and extremism, Waayaha Cusub produced what was possibly the most dangerous music festival in recent history bringing musicians of Somali hiphop, Kenyan Afrofusion, Sudani soul, Afghan folk, Philippine reggae, and American rock. At the heart of the story, Shiine Akhyaar, founder of Somali hiphop, and other members of his group, survive assassination attempts by extremists from the Alshabaab rebel group, only to face down those threats to produce a rap concert in a prisoner-of-war camp in a bid for reconciliation with the group that tried to kill them.
Live from Mogadishu, the film, covers their journey and how they ran the largest concerts in Mogadishu since before the war, reaching a combined total of two thousand live audience. It was also the first time international musicians had performed here in public since the 1980s. Waayaha Cusub launched this festival now not for music’s sake but because we firmly believe Somalia’s war cannot be brought to an end purely through military and humanitarian means. Cultural forces must also play a role in persuading the country’s lost and troubled youth not to join extremists, not to destroy, not to kill.
MC Dikriyow Abdi rallies audience of former fighters in a prisoner of war camp in Mogadishu, Somalia. Photo: Daniel J Gerstle. Appears in Rolling Stone Middle East.
[Continue on to Photo Essay below!]
LFM 1.01- Shiine Akhyaar and his daughter, Sirad, in Nairobi, in the opening scene of Live from Mogadishu. Photo by Jake Simkin.
LFM 1.02- Falis Abdi rehearsing in Mogadishu. Photo by Humanitarian Bazaar.
LFM 1.03- Lihle Muhidin in Nairobi. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.04- Dikriyo Abdi at Waayaha Cusub Store in Nairobi. Photo by Jake Simkin.
LFM 1.05- Burhan Ahmed Yare in studio. Photo by Humanitarian Bazaar.
LFM 1.06- Dikriyo readies for a show in Eastleigh. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.07- Sirad Shiine and aunt in Nairobi. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.08- Sirad learns to play Ka’a. Photo by Jake Simkin.
LFM 1.09- Kombo Chokwe & Afro Simba in Nairobi. Photo by Jake Simkin.
LFM 1.10- Waayaha Cusub at Kwani Litfest, Eastleigh. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.11- Shiine and Lihle greet friends in Eastleigh. Screenshot by Jake Simkin.
LFM 1.12- Shiine shows where Alshabaab shot him in Eastleigh. Screenshot by Jake Simkin.
LFM 1.13- Welcome to Mogadishu, at dawn. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.14- Shiine Akhyaar, director of the Mogadishu Music Festival, drives with Daniel J Gerstle, director of the film. Photo by Kow Media Corps.
LFM 1.15- Extremists attack the government days before the Mogadishu Music Festival. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.16- Shiine leads planning of the Mogadishu Music Festival, scouting locations. Photo by Kow Media Corps.
LFM 1.17- Alsarah becomes first international performer to sing at a public outdoor concert in Mogadishu in two decades. Screenshot by Ahmad Mahmoud.
LFM 1.18- Ariana Delawari reps Afghanistan at the Mogadishu Music Festival. Photo by Jake Simkin.
LFM 1.19- Neelamjit Dillon and Robin Ryczek before performing at Mog Music Fest. Screenshot by Humanitarian Bazaar.
LFM 1.20- Lihle Muhidin introduces rapper DZA at Mog Music Fest. Screenshot by Jake Simkin.
LFM 1.21- Robin introduces cello to Somali youth. Photo by Jake Simkin.
LFM 1.22- Waayaha Cusub performs at Wardigli Community Center. Photo by Jake Simkin.
LFM 1.23- Jahm plays Mogadishu. Photo by Jake Simkin.
LFM 1.24- Ariana and Qais Essar show girls how to use Afghan instruments. Screenshot by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.25- Ariana and Qais perform Elman Peace women’s center. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.26- Girls listen to Afghan music at Elman Peace women’s center. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.27- Mogadishu policeman descends harbor tower. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.28- Qais and DZA aka Ahmad Mahmoud at Lido Beach. Screenshot by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.29- Alsarah prepares for Mog Music Fest. Photo by Hajooj Kuka.
LFM 1.30- Alsarah on Mogadishu harbor. Photo by Jake Simkin.
LFM 1.31- Robin Ryczek in Mogadishu. Photo by Jake Simkin.
LFM 1.32- Ahmad scouts locations for music video in Mogadishu. Photo by Humanitarian Bazaar.
LFM 1.33- Mogadishu’s cathedral. Photo by Jake Simkin.
LFM 1.34- Mogadishu youth. Photo by Jake Simkin.
LFM 1.35- Lihle Muhdin tours Mogadishu’s waterfront. Screenshot by Ahmad Mahmoud.
LFM 1.36- Members of Afro Simba ready for the show in Mog. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.37- Ariana Delawari, Alsarha, Qais Essar, Jahm, and Robin Ryczek in Mog. Photo by Jake Simkin.
LFM 1.38- Ariana tours the Mogadishu waterfront. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.39- Qais Essar in the Mogadishu harbor tower. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.40- Shiine Akhyaar scouting locations at the National Theatre in Mog. Photo by Kow Media Corps.
LFM 1.41- Neelamjit Dillon rehearses in Mogadishu. Screenshot by Jake Simkin.
LFM 1.42- Ariana on Lido Beach. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.43- Qais and Ariana jam on the Jazeera Hotel rooftop in Mog. Screenshot by Jake Simkin.
LFM 1.44- Shiine Akhyaar directs Waayaha Cusub concert in Serendi former fighters center in Mog. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.45- Lihle Muhidin raps with former Alshabaab fighters in Mogadishu. Screenshot by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.46- Kombo Chokwe prepares for show with former Alshabaab fighters in Mog. Screenshot by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.47- Former fighters and child soldiers ready for show in Mogadishu. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.48- Dikriyo Abdi MCs rap show with former fighters. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.49- Afro Simba Band plays alongside Waayaha Cusub in Serendi Center. Screenshot by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.50- Dikriyo Abdi MCs rap show with former fighters in Mog. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.51- Dikriyo, Falis, and nephew, at final press interview of festival. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.52- Falis Abdi sings at finale of Mogadishu Music Festival. Screenshot by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.53- Somali dance at the festival finale event. Screenshot by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.54- Local woman sings for open mic competition at finale event. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.55- Festival director Shiine Akhyaar calls for Somali world to help end the war. Screenshot by Daniel J Gerstle.
LFM 1.56- Festival producer Mohamed Artan sees sun rise in Mogadishu. Photo by Daniel J Gerstle.
“We ran all six festival concerts as “surprise” flash mob style shows,” writes film director and tour producer Daniel J Gerstle, “this being a “stealth” music festival modeled after our allies’ work at the Sound Central Festival in Kabul. We avoided upper class halls and walled expat havens in favor of working class venues in former frontline neighborhoods, some controlled by extremists just a year ago. Five of the shows – opening night, international solidarity night, youth open mic, a women’s shelter exhibition, and the finale reconciliation concert – rallied crowds to come to their first live band and international concerts. But to amplify the primary mission, we also ran a scorching midday concert with former fighters and child soldiers in a POW camp. After giving these kids, many of whom had killed in the war or had been shot or lost a hand and were now turning from extremism, a chance to rap with their Somali hiphop heroes Dikriyo Abdi or Lihle “Six Fingers” Muhdin songs like “Leave the Conflict Behind (Dhibataada Waa),” we discovered a familiar face.
“One of the teenagers Waayaha Cusub jammed with in Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighborhood, who had been DJ and photographer, had been picked up by Kenyan security forces and extradited to Somalia. Here, smiling painfully, he finally confessed to us that not only had he been guilty of bombing one civilian establishment in Eastleigh just a few months ago, but he had brought a bomb to one of our shows there intending to kill Waayaha Cusub and any of their fans who were close enough. I remember hanging out with the kid at those shows, sharing a photo light with him, having him pose with gang sign for a picture. Seeing Waayaha Cusub now rapping with his peers in the camp, he had to come clean to the group’s leader Shiine Ali, and plead forgiveness.
“Among our growing Frontline Music Alliance stretching from Kabul to Mogadishu, I am continually in awe of Waayaha Cusub, led by Shiine and his wife, singer Falis Abdi. They continually work with youth knowing how they may turn because they feel persuading youth from violence is the primary way to end the war. At some point, the rest of the global community must learn from stories like theirs, that ending a war is not only about fighting and aid. It’s also about helping the lost, locked out youth imagine that they could live a brighter future in a peaceful, open society than they could dying for another man’s dream of a cruel and unforgiving god.”