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World On Your Street: The Global Music Challenge
Amara Sheik
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Musician: Amara Sheik

Location: Bexley

Instruments: voice

Music: Somali folk

'We play traditional Somali music with hand drums, guitar, organ and the Kaban'

How I came to this music:

My name is Amara Ali Sheik and I come from Mogadishu in Somalia.

I've always loved to dance. We have so many different folklore dances, and I learnt them all. Everyone in my family was musical, but I'm the only one who went into it. I've been acting and dancing and singing since 1983.

I've been here for seven years now and I perform with the Bexley Somali Group. There are around ten of us - musicians, singers, dancers. We play traditional Somali music with hand drums, guitar, organ and the Kaban (it's like a guitar, but it has four strings and the sound is nicer). In our dance we try to put over the meaning by talking with our hands.

My kids are English - I have two girls and a boy - and every weekend I take them along to practice so that they can learn some of the music and dancing. They love it and they're good at it. My youngest, the five-year old, she dances exactly like me! It's good that they know the sounds and the movements - helps them to know where their Mum comes from.

I married their father in 1985. We met in Mogadishu. In 1990 he was kidnapped along with eight other United Nations people and kept for nine days. They would have been killed if the UN hadn't paid for their release. When he was released and the media interviewed him, they asked if he would go back and he said "yes, it's my second country". So he's in Somalia trying to help the people, and the kids worry about him. He always comes to see them, and we keep in touch with those in my family who ran away to Kenya and neighbouring countries. But the ones who are still in Somalia - no. I don't think it will be possible to return for another ten years. Kids of eight and nine are being given guns and taught how to kill now, so I don't think the killing will stop any time soon.

Where I play:

Amara SheikMostly we perform for the Somali Community in Bexley, because we're from Bexley, and at weddings and festivals. We've travelled all over the UK for festivals.

Right now we're working on a film about the awful things that have happened in Somalia - what has been done to kids, to women, to old people and to whoever tried to help. In translation the title means "What has happened to this family? What has made them divide and fight?" The plan is to take the film to Somalia and show people what they're into and help them to see that things have got to change. I hope it will be worth it. I hope everything will be OK in my country, because the madness has been going on for twelve years and so far there's been no hope.

A favourite song:

It's a traditional song, a love song. I've fallen in love and I don't know where the guy's gone. Where should I look for him? How will I find him? Slow, romantic music is my favourite and this is a beautiful Somali song.

Click here for Hande Domac's storyClick here for Mosi Conde's storyClick here for Rachel McLeod's story

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