Considered one of the founding fathers of contemporary Somaliland music, songwriter, pianist, and poet Ahmed Ismail Hussein alias Hudeydi has passed away in London after being infected with coronavirus
Hudeydi, also known as the King of Oud died at age 92 on Tuesday night after battling with the virus for few days and is set to be interred in the UK, where he has lived for the better part of his life.
Ayan Ahmed, a former representative of Somaliland in Britain, announced the tragic news on her Twitter account, although she did not divulge into more details.
“Deeply saddened by the passing of Ahmed I Hussein ‘Hudeydi’ – one of the greatest Somaliland musicians of all time;” she said. “My deepest condolences to Hudeydi’s family, fans, Somalis across the world and his fellow Somali artists.”
“Hudeydi is the indisputable king of Oud. A musician, songwriter, and an exceptionally talented composer and arranger; Hudeydi can be characterized as the father of Somaliland music. If ever there were a Somaliland hall of fame he would have been the first person to be inducted,” describe Shunuuf brothers who have written an article about the musical legacy of Hudeydi.
“The Keyd Somali Arts and Culture family are deeply saddened by the passing of Ahmed Ismail Hussein ‘Hudaeydi’- one of the greatest Somali musicians of all time.” UK-based researcher Hana Ali tweeted
Hana Ali, who is a director at the Keyd arts organization, said Hudeydi had moved to London in the early 90s during the deliberations of Somaliland, and his home was a cultural hub for all artists and young people.
Mary Harper, the BBC Africa Editor, while recognizing him as King of Somali “Life”, added that the deceased musician was “so kind, fun, principled, generous and special”.
Born in Berbera Somaliland on April 15, 1928, Hudeydi spent his childhood and teenage years in Yemen’s city of Aden. He later returned to Somaliland, where, according to Shunuuf Brothers, “he changed the face of Somaliland music forever.”
In an interview, Hudeydi said that when he was 14 years, he accompanied his father to a function in Aden where he heard an Arabic man playing the oud. He recalled being intrigued by the sound and yearning to learn how to play this mysterious instrument that would later become his greatest pleasure. After some encouragement, he went on to learn from Abdullahi Qarshe, a pioneer in creating music with the oud.
He returned to Somaliland as a young man and in 1947 his father sent him to join the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, England, to keep him away from music and musicians. However, this did not stop his love for music. In 1960, when Somaliland gained independence from Britain, he was among those who performed at Freedom Park.
Hudeydi was one of the founders of the Waaberi music troupe, which was established in the late 1960s. As a musician, he traveled and played in many countries including China, Ukraine, Nigeria, Sudan and Zaire, where he performed at The Rumble in the Jungle boxing match.
His music life spanned the colonial, post-independence and post-civil war periods. His music embodied the themes of freedom and independence. At some point in his life, he was detained by French colonial authorities for campaigning for Djibouti’s independence.
His favorite song that he wrote is ‘Urhoyo‘ that he composed for his brother that he had not seen in 10 years. His brother was a police officer in Aden at the time and upon finding out his brother was in Djibouti, went to great lengths to search for his brother.”. It is a timeless piece of Somali poetry that is oft-quoted by far-flung Somali’s in their correspondence to loved ones. “
Here is a small biography which Hudeydi himself wrote about his story at BBC’s Musicians’ Stories:
Listen (2’49) to ‘Urhoyo’ performed by Hudeydi
Listen (2’06) to ‘Ambaroodka’, performed by Hudeydi and his daughter, Zeynab, at home in their own living room
Listen (00’43) to Hudeydi describe the oud
Listen (29’52) to ‘My Oud and I’, an edition of Art Beat, BBC World Service, tx. January 2003 which featured Hudeydi. The presenter/producer was Jenny Horracks
‘If there’s an oud lying near me I can’t resist it – I’ve got to play it’
How I came to this music:
When I was 14 years old, my father took me to a party in Aden where I heard an Arabic man playing an oud. I liked it and knew I wanted to learn how to play myself. At the school I was constantly drumming on the desk so my teacher recommended that I learn how to play the drums. I went on to learn the oud from Abdullahi Qarshe, the most famous and first Somali to create tunes for the instrument. He advised my father to replace the pen and book with an oud and risch (pick) so that I could really practice. After 6 months, my teacher was listening to me. If you’re a musical man and have a sense of rhythm, as I do, the oud is easy to learn. For me it’s like an illness – if there’s an oud lying near me, I’ve just got to play it.
There were very few oud players in Somalia before the 60’s. Before then, due to war, most musicians rarely reached their 30th birthday. Now there are hundreds of players in all the villages.
Where I play:
Throughout the late 50’s & 60’s, I played all over Somalia in public places, for theatre and concerts. My nickname is ‘Hudeydi’ but I’m known as ‘The King’ because of my hot rhythms. I was always into rock & roll and Elvis Presley. There was even a time where a prominent Civil servant, supported by lots of parents, tried to ban my music. For them, all musicians were devils because we were driving the youth crazy. One old man was particularly angry because his wife dropped the rice as she served him his dinner, she was that distracted singing our songs.
In 1974 I moved to the UK and since then I play in private for family parties and community occasions. I’d really like to have my own school where I could teach the oud. I’ve taught my own children and grandchildren. The oud is my greatest pleasure. It’s music that can satisfy a huge crowd on its own unlike amplified music and keyboards. I’m 74 years old now so I’m really keen to pass on the tradition, especially to young Somalis here.
A favorite song:
‘Urhoyo‘ is a song I composed for my brother. He worked as a police officer in Aden and went to great trouble once to find me when I was living in Djibouti. Now every Somali quotes the lyrics in their letters home. A Somali will never forget his brother no matter how far abroad he must travel.
‘Ambaroodka‘ is a love song which describes the beauty of a woman, especially her breasts and how she’s built. It’s a gorgeous song and I love singing it.
Hudeydi becomes the latest African public figure to die from the coronavirus following Cameroonian jazz legend Manu Dibango, former president of the Marseilles football club, Pape Diouf, and several others.
The virus has claimed nearly 85,397 lives in 184 countries or regions, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. At least 1.46 million people have been infected.
In the U.K, about 60,733 people have tested positive whereas 7,097 have died.
The country’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is in intensive care after his COVID-19 symptoms worsened.
Secretary of State Dominic Raab is running the affairs of the government until Johnson recovers.
Tributes have been pouring in for Hussein since the news of his death emerged.
Inaalilaahi waa Inaa Ileyhi Raajicuun.
Deeply saddened by the passing of Ahmed I Hussein ‘Hudeydi’ – one of the greatest Somali musicians of all time; AKA The King of Oud. My deepest condolences to Hudeydi’s family, fans, Somalis across the world,& his fellow Somali artists. pic.twitter.com/WPiRg75Avv
— Ayan Mahamoud MBE (@Gobannimo) April 8, 2020
Today the Somali community around the world has lost a hero – Ahmed Ismail Hussein Hudeydi – one of the founding fathers of modern Somali music lost to covid19. I am utterly devastated. إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ pic.twitter.com/6mGuN1ms1H
— Hanna Ali (@HannaAli) April 8, 2020