b. 1 January
1950, Mogadishu, Somalia. Mursal began singing professionally at
16, performing the mix of blues, soul African and Arabic influences
known locally as Somali jazz. Her warm, deep voice initially drew
comparisons with American singers such as Etta James. As well as
solo performances, she also sang with Waaberi, the 300-strong music
and dance troupe associated with the Somalian National Theatre.
political unrest in Somalia led many of the members of Waaberi into
exile in different parts of the world. Mursal herself was forced
to work as a taxi driver following a national ban on her music,
resulting from a song she had written criticizing the government.
With the break-out of full-scale civil war, Mursal, fearing for
the safety of her family, fled the country with her five young children.
for an incredible seven months, they eventually arrived in Djibouti,
where they were given asylum by the Danish Embassy.In Denmark Mursal
was reunited with members of Waaberi, who had already settled there,
and with whom she recorded New Dawn. It featured Mursal and other
vocalists backed by percussion and oud (Arabic lute), performing
a mixture of Somalian folk songs and modern material, some of it
written by Mursal.
The group toured
throughout Europe to promote the album in 1997, including a support
slot for Nina Simone at London's Barbican Theatre. The Journey,
Mursal's international solo debut, was released a year later. A
collection of songs relating to her seven-month trek across the
Horn of Africa, it featured backing vocals from Peter Gabriel and
was produced by Simon Emmerson.
On the record,
the latter developed the fusion of progressive dance music and traditional
influences he had previously explored in his work with Baaba Maal
and the Afro-Celt Sound System, while at the same time retaining
the essential personality of Mursal's music.