The Passing of a Legend; Shamis Abokar Ismail (Guduudo Arwo)

From Balwo to Heello: Shamis Abokar Ismail (Guduudo Arwo) was one of the early pioneers of the Heello  

“Guduudo Carway Gugii La Arkaba Alaw Yaa Gashaanti Kaadhiga

Shamis Abokar Ismail was one of the pioneers of the Heello. She was the first woman to sing a song in Somaliland and all the other Somali-speaking regions in the Horn of Africa. She sang her first Heello from Radio Hargeisa in 1955. She became the first woman that became a member of the legendary Walaala Hargeisa band. Saying she was both a historical and legendary in the Music world is an understatement. She was a pioneer who blazed the music trail so many other women singers who followed her. Before 1955 there was a time Shamis Abokar joined Radio Addis Abba. Guduudo Arwo was a beloved figure and an early pillar in the world of music in the entire Somali-speaking world of the Horn of Africa and beyond.

Background information

This was all started by the legendary Abdi Deeqsi Warfaa (Abdi Sinimo), and Khaija Eiye Darar (Khadija Balwo). This was between 1946 and 1947.This was a time the Sudanese and Arab music were beginning to be at their peak. The independence movement in Africa and the Middle East were beginning to shape. Abdi Sinimo was a truck driver between Borama and Djibouti. When his truck was broken in middle of the Giriyaad desert between Borama and Djibouti, the passengers of his truck and Abdisinimo spent many days amid a forbidding desert that is extremely hot in the day time and extremely cold at night time. This is the time Abdi Sinimo uttered his first verses of the Balwo. “Hooy Balwoy Waxa Ibaleeyay Babuur, Hooy Balwoy Waxa Ibaleeyay Beerlula. The first Balwo band was formed in Borama in 1946, and the Balwo story has rapidly spread and a number of prominent figures in Hargeisa such as Haji Ahmed Naaliye a prominent business in Hargeisa, Aden Haji Ismail (Adan Dakhtar), a local physician, Ayban, John Raymond and others were flocking to Borama to listen to the Abdi Sinimo and Khadija Balwo’s songs. Here are some of Khadija Balwo’s lyrics: “Wuxuu Ingriis Ka Xoogsaday Iyo Hajkii Maka Saaray Hajiga. One day Abdi Sinimio Heard from Radio Kudus (modern radio Hargeisa that some of his lyrics and songs were claimed by a man called Ayban. Then he angrily responded with the following: “Anaa Alifiyo Ayban Bay Baratee Istaadkii Ada Keenay baan Ahay.”

Walaala Hargeisa band were the legendary music band that were behind the massive 1960 independence songs such as: (Waamahad Alee Madaxeen Banaan, Balkaalay Canabay Calanka Walacle, Kadabaa Dhaha Ay, Dharaartaan Waxyeeladii Dhaqdaqee Calankan Dhidbay Saw Masoodhicin,  In Maala Hasheena Maandeeq, Dhalintii Wadankiyo Dhulkaanu Nahoo and many others). Among the early pioneering members of the group were Abdullahi Qarshe, Hussein Aw Farah, Mohamed Said Guroon Jire, Mohamed Ahmed Kuluc, Omar Dhuule, Ahmed Ali Haruun (Daramleh), Mohamed Ismail (Barkhad As), Osman Ina Beenaale. After 1957 the group mushroomed and exponentially increased. Between 1959 and 1960 Walaala Hargeisa were joined by Zaynab H. Ali Bahsan who came from Radio Addis Abba, and the legendary Halimo Khalif Magool.  At the time Ethiopia was ruled by a terrible expansionist emperor called Haile Salessie. At the time back in Borama the original place of the Balwo Dabshid Aw Hussein and Fajac were doing finishing touches on their legendary and all time song “Jawharaluul.” This is a song that never gets old. It was originally sang by Omar Subugleh an Awdal legend, who in the early 70s became number with “Jawharaluul” is what was used to be called “Heesa Hergalay” which was an audition program for aspiring singers. In his book the “Heelley” John William Johnson a professor Emeritus of Anthropology and African studies in Indian University, has said “Jawharaluul” has marked the beginning of the transition from the Balwo to Heello, while according to Abdullahi Qarshe the Heello was started by Walaala Hargeisa. Despite the two schools of thoughts regarding the Heello, there is no doubt that both schools of thought were based on the Balwo that was unequivocally initiated and started by Abdi Deeqsi Warfaa (Sinimo), and Khadija Ciye Darar (Balwo). 

The wind of independence was blowing with the speed of light and coinciding with the formation of the political parties in British Somaliland Protectorate. The early pioneers of radio Hargeisa were Haji Abdi Duale, and Mohamed and others. The independence movement in Somaliland was at the time in full Swing, British Somaliland independence parties were emerging, at time there three independent movement parts which were the SNL, NUF, and USP. There were also three main Newspapers coming out of Hargeisa. They were the Horn of Africa (Qaranal Afriqiya and the editor was Ahmed Jimaale, Al-Liwa (the Banner), and the co-editors were Ahmed Yusuf Dualeh and Omar Dheere, and Warsomaali Side (The Voice of the Somali by the SNL).



Suleiman Egeh is a freelance writer and a senior science instructor