Love Songs in Motion: Voicing Intimacy in Somaliland

Christina J. Woolner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


At first listen, both music and talk about love are conspicuously absent from Somaliland’s public soundscapes. The lingering effects of war, the contested place of music in Islam, and gendered norms of emotional expression limit opportunities for making music and sharing personal feelings. But while Christina J. Woolner was researching peacebuilding in Somaliland’s capital, Hargeysa, she kept hearing snippets of songs. Almost all of these, she learned, were about love. In these songs, poets, musicians, and singers collaborate to give voice to personal love aspirations and often painful experiences of love-suffering. Once in circulation, the intimate and heartfelt voices of love songs provide rare and deeply therapeutic opportunities for dareen-wadaag (feeling-sharing). In a region of political instability, these songs also work to powerfully unite listeners on the basis of shared vulnerability, transcending social and political divisions and opening space for a different kind of politics.

Taking us from 1950s recordings preserved on dusty cassettes to new releases on YouTube and live performances at Somaliland’s first postwar music venue—where the author herself eventually takes the stage—Woolner offers an account of love songs in motion that reveals the capacity of music to connect people and feelings across time and space, creating new possibilities for relating to oneself and others.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationChicago, US
PublisherUniversity of Chicago Press
Number of pages256
ISBN (Electronic) 9780226827384
ISBN (Print)9780226827391, 9780226827377
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameChicago Studies in Ethnomusicology
PublisherUniversity of Chicago Press

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