This paper focuses on the dooro duureed aa, a form of poetry that is part of the wider Banaadiri fishing song genre and is yet to be explored in scholarly literature. This paper examines the metre of this form using Aweys Geedow Nuur Diinles’ (1925-1970) 1968 song “Ciyow Biyaha Keen” as a popular example . The poetry of the Banaadiri people, a mainly coastal community located on the southern coast of Somalia and its surroundings, has long been overlooked in the field of Somali studies, and this paper aims to contribute to a deeper understanding of its place in the landscape of wider Somali poetry.

In addition to the analysis of the dooro duureed aa, this paper explores the life and work of Diinle, highlighting his role in preserving, modernising, and extending traditional Banaadiri forms through his use of work and dance song forms in his modern compositions. Furthermore, this paper discusses the political nature of his work, including his anti-colonial poetry and subsequent critiques of the post-independence Somali government.

Overall, this paper aims to both catalogue a yet to be explored metre and contribute to a deeper understanding and appreciation of Banaadiri literature and its significance in the wider context of Somali poetry and culture.


Banaadir, Somali Poetry, Metre, work songs

1     Introduction

Somali poetry has a rich history as a means of expression within an oral society. It encompasses various forms and styles, such as lullabies, work songs, dance songs, religious verse, and more. However, the prevailing trend in the collection, composition, and study of Somali poetry has been the focus on poetry from communities from nomadic pastoralist backgrounds. This can be attributed to several factors.

Ahad M Ali’s “Somali Oral-Poetry and The Failed She Camel State” offers a compelling analysis of how poetry from nomadic pastoralist communities informed early Somali studies scholars’ understanding of Somali society. This literature, which was unique to a particular segment of Somali society, was improperly applied to the whole, leading to an incomplete understanding of Somali society. Ali notes, “ever since the earlier publications by non-Somali scholars, a generalisation concerning the life and culture of the whole of Somalia became the holding pattern for Somali studies.” (Mumin Ahad 22)

Somali political leaders have reinforced this narrow view of a homogenous society focused solely on nomadic pastoralism. With the political elite originating from nomadic pastoralist backgrounds, this view has been perpetuated through government institutions such as the Academy of Arts and Sciences, (Ahmed 16)which was tasked with collecting and disseminating Somali history and culture. Their total output included a negligible amount of southern literature and the literature textbooks studied in school (also published by the academy) also had very little from farming, fishing, and agro-pastoralist communities in the south. This has led to Southern Somali literature being continuously dismissed as unrefined or even nonexistent. This point is illustrated by Ali Jimale’s story, “I remember literary discussions I had with some members of the Somali Academy of Arts and Sciences in the early eighties; some of these “intellectuals” were of the opinion that certain parts of the country did not have literature.” (Ahmed 15 )

The categorization of poetry and its function also plays a role in the dismissal of Southern poetry. The maanso genres of poetry (gabay, geeraar, masafo) are often seen as the preeminent form of poetry in nomadic pastoralist poetic culture, and until fairly recently, were considered one of the few acceptable forms for articulating socio-political issues as opposed to the hees which were light poetry forms that accompanied work as work songs and dances as dance songs.  However, southern poetry often differs markedly in terms of genre and form from nomadic pastoralist poetry (Salaad 23).  The differences in categorization, function, and what forms constitute “serious” poetry exemplify a tendency to exclude voices that do not conform to the  conventions of nomadic pastoralist poetry

This article is part of a wider project that aims to achieve several objectives. Firstly, it seeks to explore southern poetry that goes beyond the nomadic pastoralist origins that dominate existing collections. Secondly, it aims to explore different forms of southern poetry, exploring their contexts and metres. Finally, the project aims to explore the development of Southern literature and how these communities have reacted to social and political changes. By achieving these objectives, this project seeks to both provide a more comprehensive understanding of Somali poetry and map southern metres that have yet to be explored.

1.1 The Banaadiri People

The Banaadiri people, also known as the Benadiri, are a coastal community located on the southern coast of Somalia. The name “Benadir” is derived from the Persian word “Bendar,” which means “ports,” reflecting the coastal areas’ significance in the exchange of goods. Persian and Arab geographers applied the term Banaadir to the East African coast of southern Somalia, much like they applied Sawahil to the East African coast further south.(Adams 9)

The Banaadir coast, stretching from Warsheikh to Kismayu, is home to a mix of ports and once-thriving city-states as well as small and remote fishing villages.

The largest port settlements on the Banaadir coast include Mogadishu, Marka, and Brava, while smaller villages such as Jesira, Danaane, Gandershe, Jilib-Marka, Munghiye, and Torre dot the coastline. (Adams 9)

The Banaadiri identity, however,  is not confined to the port states, as trade along the caravan routes to the interior continued as it had for centuries from the coast to the markets along the lower Shabelle. Local abbaana, who acted as commercial brokers or agents, facilitated the exchange of goods, resulting in the establishment of longer-term alliances and shared traditions through intermarriage (Adams 87). Luling’s intriguing study of the Geledi (Afgooye) city-state in the nineteenth century attests to the social organisation in the hinterland city-states that resemble those of the coastal towns. (Luling)

Moreover, there were migrations of coastal Banaadiris into farming villages in Shabeellaha Hoose, which led to the identification of some clans in those villages as Banaadiri people, such as the Geledi and Begedi, among others.

Nevertheless, it is essential to recognize that these settled urbanites are not disconnected from the overall Somali population but constitute a segment of it. Banaadiris are an integral part of Somali society, just like pastoral and agro-pastoral units, and share overlapping traditions and common historical experiences. (Adams 16)

Despite their rich cultural heritage and unique history, the Banaadiri people have been marginalised in scholarly works on Somali culture and society, which often concentrate on the pastoralist tradition dominant in the northern and central regions of the country. Nevertheless, their pivotal role in trade and their contributions to the cultural and historical landscape of the region cannot be underestimated. (Adams 16)

Read more: Aweys Geedow Nuur Diinle’s ‘Ciyow Biyaha Keen’: A Case Study of Dooro Duureed Aa in Banaadiri Metre

By Ibrahim Hirsi
Email: ibrahimhirsi12@gmail.com
Ibrahim Hirsi is a writer, independent researcher, and editorial assistant at Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal. He is currently working on a series of papers exploring the metrics and prosody of southern Somali poetic forms. Ibrahim’s work has been published in The Poetry Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, PBLJ and in the anthology Before Them, We (Flipped Eye, 2022). 


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