Djibouti – Ostinato Records will on 19 February release its newest album titled Super Somali Sounds from the Gulf of Tadjoura by Djibouti-based Somali band 4 Mars.
The upcoming 14-track album is the first in the label’s Djibouti Archives series – an anthology of 4 Mars, a 40-member Somali supergroup behind the most streamed and downloaded track from the Grammy-nominated Sweet As Broken Dates compilation released in 2017.
The collection of songs on the new offering were restored and remastered from reels and cassettes housed at the studios of the national broadcaster, Radio Television of Djibouti (RTD). The recordings were made during live performances at the National Theatre between 1977 and 1994.
The 4 Mars group’s story reflects the dynamic commercial crossroads in the Gulf of Tadjoura in the Horn of Africa – with Turkish synthesisers, Jamaican reggae, American brass instruments, Bollywood voices, Egyptian and Yemeni rhythms, and even Chinese and Mongolian flutes converging.
“These elements have come together in East Africa’s small corner to create Somali music at its most bold, spiritual and syncretic,” Ostinato Records founder Vik Sohonie said. “4 Mars offers a bright window into its past when an African country was building itself from scratch. Their name, Quatre Mars in French, translates as 4 March 1977, the founding date of the People’s Rally for Progress [RPP] – Djibouti’s ruling party since independence.”
With its message of unity, 4 Mars became the official group of the RPP. The party’s leaders considered the band’s music as the ideal soundtrack to its ideology.
“Djibouti’s leaders saw music, and 4 Mars especially, as the ideal soundtrack to an independent era,” Sohonie said. “The government brought almost all music under the state’s wing. But this is not propaganda music. In the context of a new country, think about what ‘propaganda’ means. You have a divided society. You need to build a national identity and instil values.”
Super Somali Sounds from the Gulf of Tadjoura follows the Ostinato Records’ release of the first-ever international album from Djibouti, The Dancing Devils of Djibouti, by Groupe RTD last year.
Founded in 2016, the label aims to “shed a positive light on societies” experiencing trauma and displacement. Other compilations from the label include Somali Sounds from Mogadishu to Djibouti and Synthesise Soul: Astro-Atlantic Hypnotica from the Cape Verde Islands 1973-1988.
Order and listen to Super Somali Sounds from the Gulf of Tadjoura here.