Abdulkadir Said played traditional Somali music during the grand opening of a Minneapolis Somali musuem in October. A new grant will bring more Somali musicians to town. Photo by Kyndell Harkness.
The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art has given the Cedar Cultural Center and Augsburg College $200,000 to bring internationally known Somali musicians to Minneapolis over the next two years. The grant, one of only six given nationwide, is intended to fund efforts to promote understanding of Islamic cultures through art. This one will be used not only to present concerts by Somali musicians based as far away as London and Kenya, but to connect them -- as well as local Somali musicians -- with Augsburg students and faculty.
The cultural center and Augsburg are located close to each other on the West Bank of the University of Minnesota, which has the highest concentration of Somali residents in the Twin Cities. Dubbed "Midnimo," the Somali word for unity, the goal of the Cedar's project is to not only expose students and the broader community to a traditional Somali music art form, but to have them jam together as well, said Adrienne Dorn, director of development for the Cedar. After the deadly New Year's Day fire that destroyed a nearby apartment building, the Cedar hosted a benefit concert with Somalis singing and an American jazz band playing along.
"People just loved it," Dorn said. "Somali music is traditionally heavy on vocals without a lot of instrumentation so it was great to get them together."
A bonus of the project might be helping to reunite musicians who have been dispersed by the ongoing civil war in their native land.
"Music was seen as a form of protest and often suppressed," Dorn said. "I hope we can get some old bandmates who are living far apart from each other to play together again."