LFM 1.55- Festival director Shiine Akhyaar calls for Somali world to help end the war. Screenshot by Daniel J Gerstle.


Somali hiphop’s journey to help end the war

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.

RS-Farewell to Arms

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!]




“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.”