Al-Shabaab bullets will not slow or stop this musician

Charles Kamau | Nation
Kenya-based Somali rapper Ali Shiine. The leader of the Waayaha Cusub rap group has been targeted by the Al-Shabaab terror group.

What you need to know:

  • Rapper Shiine lives in fear of terror group agents due to his message of peace

Shiine Abdullahi Ali has weathered many storms in his quest to fight the ills that afflict the Somali people. Coming from a community more famed for its business acumen than music, the rapper is determined to make a mark on the Kenyan and regional music scene.

Apart from rapping in his vernacular Somali language, Shiine has also collaborated with several Kenyan artistes including Abbas Kubaf and Ukoo Flani.

With his group called Waayaha Cusub, Shiine has been rapping about issues affecting Somalia and refugees for the last nine years.

Born in Somalia in 1983, the artiste migrated to Kenya with his parents in 1997, where he has been living as a refugee.

“Most refugee youths are idle and disillusioned, hence they easily fall prey to false doctrines,” he says. “It’s for this reason that we came together with some friends in 2003 to form the group Waayaha Cusub. We want to spread the message of peace and reconciliation.”

The group comprises 16 members, 11 of whom are Somalis drawn from different clans. Other members are drawn from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

Besides having a passionate interest in rhymes and poetry since his boyhood, Shiine says he was pushed into the industry by a long-held desire to revive Somali cultural music.

“Since hiphop is the in-thing right now among East African urban youths, we realised this was the easiest way to push Somali music to the forefront,” the 29 year-old rapper says.

“Somali music is poetic in nature, hence its easy to rhyme and rap. Being a young man influenced by regional genres like genge and bongo, I wanted to fuse traditional Somali music with these styles to create something even those who don’t speak Somali could appreciate and enjoy.”

Shiine and Waayaha Cusub sing about their troubled homeland on issues like warlords, the defunct Islamic Courts Union and, recently, the dreaded terror group Al-Shabaab.

“After the Islamic Courts defeated the Mogadishu warlords in 2005, our music became very popular among Somalis due to the anti-warlord messages,” he says.

“Although we also did our thing against the Courts since they also turned despotic, things took a turn for the worse when Al-Shabaab came to power in 2008. We released Dhalinyaro (Youth).”

The song warns young Somalis against radical Islamism.

The first songs against the terror group were done in Somali language, but since 2010 they have incorporated other languages including English, Kiswahili and Amharic.

They released an album called No To Al-Shabaab, done in collaboration with Kenyan artistes Abbas Kubaf and Ukoo Flani.

The spirited musical war against the terror gang has earned Ali Shiine and Waayaha Cusub friends and foes in equal measure.

After failing to deter him through threat messages, the artiste says the terror group made an attempt on his life in November 2007 as he returned to his house in Eastleigh.

“I was returning to my house at around 10pm after watching the popular reality show final Big Brother final episode at a friend’s house when I found my front door ajar, with a hooded man standing outside,” he narrates.

“When I tried to run away, he shot me several times and fled thinking that I was dead. I was rushed by neighbours to Nairobi Hospital and later transferred to Equator Hospital in Nairobi West, where I spent six months.”

Shiine showed the bullet scars to the Weekend and appeared apprehensive throughout the interview, explaining that the Al-Shabaab operatives are still sending him threatening messages.

“Late last year, they severely mutilated the face of a female member of Waayaha Cusub so that she would not appear on our videos again,” he alleges. “Since then, several members of the group have gone underground but the rest of us, though scared, are determined to push on with our campaign against terrorism and piracy through music.”