Hasan Sh. Momin: An Ordinary Man with Extra-ordinary Wisdom

gode halaq miyaad tahay
hadba marada ii gala
gabaldaye miyaad tahay
haba gees u jeesada ,
godad layntu waa maxay
waad iga gardaran tee…

Gabaldaye by Hasan Sh. Momin

It is very sad to hear that the great Somali composer and social critique of Hasan Sh. Momin is no longer with us. He passed away in Norway last week, but he left behind mountains of linguistic, cultural, social and nationalistic paradox for Somali race and its history. Arguably, I’m not from his generation, not even closer, nor am I in a position to comment on the legendry man’s artistic works. I briefly met him once or twice in the early 1980s and through acquaintances in Mogadishu. He was very eloquent and poetic man — a typical traditional Somali with acute observation and immense sense of humour– who seemed to preoccupied with myriad of grave socio-cultural issues and challenges of the day.

I should have asked few relevant questions so that I could have told today as a first hand accounts about his life and times. It was a missed opportunity and just because of an aloofness and self-centered attitude of teenager’s state of mind on my part. Besides, my interest was tuned onto natural sciences at that particular time, not poetry and literature at all. There were also national institutions and many other talented, academics people who cared so much about the artists and their works, I presumed. Little did I know what immediate future held and that things would start from ground zero again.

However, let me share with another sketchy and famed accounts of his close colleagues about him and other striking messages that every one who casually comes across his literature and narrative can notice.

Extra-ordinary Observations

According to the associates, the late Hassan was common man with unconventional sagacity and approach in with dealing complex socio-cultural issues and paradigms. He detested to be associated with an intellectual snob of sort and celeb status. He preferred to intermingle, dine, laugh with and discuss with common man of all walks of life. Note that also past great social thinkers like Socrates, Dickens and Taiwan were approached the subject from down-trodden, street-person’s prospective.

This was by no means coincidence. I recall an interview of Radio Hargeisa few years ago with Dr. Mohamed Rashid who asked him about the source of the metaphors, societal abstracts and paradoxes that he is famed for. He simply referred to the common person, not esoteric type of elitist world as may think, coupled with ancient tradition of the Awdal civilization as his main library and strength. He said every social incident, be it failed marriage, dark secret or societal taboo, etc., has its precedence of words, narratives, proverbs and parable in our society and it is only a matter of observing , analyzing and putting together on my part. Evidently, nothing ca be more truthful than this comment when it comes to the tradition of Somali poetry and literature and late Hasan..

Holistic Approach

A uniqueness of late Hasan Sh. Momin’s work and songs across the spectre of social, religious and nationalistic issues was (1) the clarity that every one can understand, as the famous Somali artist of Hodeida mentioned on BBC last week (2) inclusiveness was another quality. Unlike the other heavy weight artists who focus on the Hawd literature, late Momin tried to relate and inspire every Somali at the moment regardless of lifestyle, locality and whether he/she lives in city or rural by picking up meticulously various geographic location and villages.

Perhaps it was his background of nationalistic sub-conscious why he never attached him self to a specific region or city and remained universalistic figure. Perhaps he felt being better off and bigger to be fitted with one particular locality or issue. Hadrawi and Sangub are among few artists with such unique talent. For instance, Laaleys, Jaamame, Goroyo cawl to mention among few and my all-time favourite of Abdow Beri Samaadkii, though also heard by Sangub, where scores of Somali territories names in the Horn were cited with the same streak ( Jacayl kaygii Boorama, kii Bulaale, Berbera iyo Hargaisa, kii Baanadir…) are his typical melodies.

The Famed Verbatim

Another thing was his strong philosophical point of view of what he believes right by challenging the sceptics or other unfortunate and popular urban myth through common sense of persuasion. He used to illustrate any myopic notion with simple but deep comparatives and that where his famed verbatim of “Just Call Mr. KS” comes.

According to the colleagues, he was the impresario of Hargeisa theatre in late 1970s and as usual for Somali adult male, who meet and work together, they make fun of each other and call nicknames based on regions and so on — not for malicious intent but for just entertainment and laughter. Jokes that usually based on petty subculture stereotypes and urban myth and Waaberi arts were well regarded in this area. They were time-tested and very liberal folks.

Next morning he heard his stuff and co-workers calling all kinds nicknames to each other and they told him they decided to use just for today. Among was Mahamoud Sangub who cracking jokes and said he is proud to be called Mr. C-word but no one should be mad whenever I say others names, including the I-word. Late Sh. Momin was given K/shagle and he said mine is compliment, not the vice versa, and nothing makes more proud than it. Allegedly, he request to be addressed to be Mr. KS from now on and then he moved to the next level to prove his philosophical point of view.

He said if any one could find local made of traditional or semi- traditional shoes, not fancy ones made in Italy or India, from Hargaisa, here is my bet along with other contenders. People were dispatched to the cities corners and with no luck. Then to other areas and was found rural Gabiley a pair of shoes from nomadic family. He allegedly put somewhere in the theatre along with two white traditional rugs and leather shoes.

The point he wanted to elucidate was: we cannot afford to lose our culture, language, dishes, clothes and traditional handcrafts. We shouldn’t be perpetually depend on other for what we can do our selves. We should be building thing on whatever skill or meagre resources we have and proud of it. A cultural freak society and its civilization cannot outlast against the pervasive invasion/erosion of foreign cultures and their technological supremacy. Nothing could be more powerful and prophetic than this message.

May the merciful and almighty god bless upon him!

Mohamed A. Awale
Moe-awale @hotmail.com

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