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Love Songs in Motion

Voicing Intimacy in Somaliland


An intimate account of everyday life in Somaliland, explored through an ever-evolving musical genre of love songs.
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 continually heard 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 in love songs provide rare and deeply therapeutic opportunities for dareen-wadaang (feeling sharing). In a region of political instability, they also work to powerfully unite listeners on the basis of shared vulnerability, transcending social and political boundaries and opening space for a different kind of politics.
Taking us from 1950s recordings preserved on dusty cassettes to new releases on YouTube, to live performances at Somaliland’s first postwar music venue where the author herself eventually performs, Woolner offers an account of love songs in motion that reveals the power of music to connect people and feelings across time and space, opening new possibilities for relating to oneself and others.

Table of Contents

List of Figures
Notes on Language and Terminology
Companion Website
Preface: It’s about Love, of Course!

1. Anatomy of a Love Song
2. Lie Down in the Love Hospital (or, How Love Finds Its Voice)
3. Storied Voices, Storied Songs (or, I Am Calaacal)
4. Listening to Love
5. Bodies of Music, Instruments of Love
6. Staging Love


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