Bristol keeping Somali culture 'alive' through music

Somali week festival Image copyright Kate Stanworth
Image caption Somali Week Festival showcases artists including Mohammed BK

An internationally-renowned artist is using music to help connect the Somali youth to their cultural identity.

Mohammed BK, who aims to connect Somalis in Bristol with their heritage, has been confirmed for the Somali Week Festival, in 2020.

He has been described as "the only artist to ever appeal to younger Somali people, making him unique".

The annual festival includes music, literature and history events.

Image copyright Kate Stanworth
Image caption Generations of Somalis come together to celebrate at the festival

Mohammed BK, who has also been named as "cultural ambassador" for the Somali community, was sponsored by the Head of Somaliland Mission to the UK to visit Bristol on 16 November, where he was welcomed by more than 300 people.

His popularity has seen his songs attract millions of views.

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Media captionMohammed BK entertaining an audience at Bristol City Hall

Ayan Mohamoud who is Head of Somaliland Mission to the UK told the BBC he will now become a fixed part of the annual festivities.

She said: "Young people who don't speak Somali at all have memorised his music word-for-word and that is something that has never been done before by any Somali artist.

"He has been touring the country promoting citizenship and cultural unity throughout his career."

Five facts about Bristol's Somali community:

  • About 20,000 people of Somali heritage live in Bristol
  • Some are from Somalia (South) and Somaliland (North) which is a self declared state
  • Many people who live away from Somalia/Somaliland are known as the Somali Diaspora
  • Somaliland has been seeking international recognition for the last 28 years after a civil war broke out
  • Traditionally, Somali identity is tied very closely to clan structure and people are part of tribes
Image caption Susan Elmi travelled from Kent to Bristol to join the celebration

Susan Elmi, 25, has been a fan of Mohammed BK for many years.

She said: "In the Somali culture many people communicated their emotions and thoughts through songs and poetry and this is going back centuries.

"This man is bringing that back and making the younger generation question and explore our rich heritage.

"I think it's just what the Somali Diaspora needs to stay well connected to the identity."

Mohammed BK also promotes education and advises young people to "use their time and resources wisely here in the UK because that is something their parents sacrificed fleeing from their homeland".

He added: "I thought to myself if I have that much influence on thousands and thousands of young people from my community, I need to put my platform to good use in encouraging them to do good and seek opportunities."

Image caption Ameira Hassan brought her niece to the concert

Festival fan Ameira Hassan, 45, said: "It's a huge thing for our kids to take part in their history and culture. It's important to us because they are learning a lot.

"Twenty years ago we never used to have anything like this in the UK and our kids never had any knowledge of the Somali culture."

Mohammed BK will return to Bristol in October 2020 to perform at the festival.

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