Saba's Somali Songs of Hybrid Identity Born in Somalia to Italian and Ethiopian parents, the singer known as Saba grew up among several different cultural traditions in Italy. On her debut album, Jidka, she meditates on her African roots. Hear an interview and studio performance.

Saba's Somali Songs of Hybrid Identity

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Back now with DAY TO DAY.

Alex, you know, the other day it was really early in the morning.



BRAND: I sat in a studio here in California and listened to some live acoustic music from Italy.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. SABA ANGLANA (Singer): (Singing in Somali)

BRAND: Actually it was the Italian singer Saba Anglana and her guitarist in a radio studio in Turin. And she wasn't singing in Italian. Alex, she was singing in Somali.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. ANGLANA: (Singing in Somali)

CHADWICK: Yeah, it doesn't sound quite like like Italian. But Somali as in Somalia, an Italian colony at one point, I think?

BRAND: Yes, you're right. And Saba herself, she embodies that history. She is part Italian, part Ethiopian. She was born in Somalia. We'll hear more about that in a moment.

First, let's hear the rest of that song.

(Soundbite of song, "I Sogni")

Ms. ANGLANA: (Singing in Somali)

Mr. TATE NSONGAN (Musician): (Singing in Somali)

BRAND: That is Saba Anglana, known as Saba singing a song in Somali there with her guitarist, Tate Nsongan, and the song called "I Sogni."

Tell me a little bit about this song and what it's about.

Ms. ANGLANA: Sogni means dreams. It speaks about a young woman that lives in a little village - to find a way to improve her existence. Of course, this is not only a song based upon a story of a girl. But in my mind I have migration. There are about 192 million people living outside their place of birth, and I am among them.

BRAND: You're one of them.

Ms. ANGLANA: Because - yes, because I left Somalia when I was a child.

BRAND: She was five years old. Her father was Italian, her mother Ethiopian - a marriage frowned upon by the authorities, who told them they had 48 hours to leave the country. And so Saba's family moved to Italy, where she grew up. She was never able to return to Somalia because of the civil war.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. ANGLANA: I wanted to make a sort of a return in music, which was the only way to go back to Mogadishu, of course.

BRAND: How did you learn Somali in Italy?

Ms. ANGLANA: Well, of course my Somali is not perfect, as I left too early that country. But I wanted to learn it from my mother because it was the only way to keep in mind my memories, because they are a great wealth for me.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. ANGLANA: (Singing in Somali)

(Speaking) I still remember everything.

BRAND: Everything?

Ms. ANGLANA: Yes. I still remember everything. The colors and the - it has a strong light, and the deep blue of the ocean. These are the colors that I still remember - and all the whites of the houses in Mogadishu. There are a lot of white houses in Mogadishu - and music - because the first music I heard, it was a Somalian lullaby, one that my mother sang to me when I was very little. And I remember it was a joyful place where we lived. These things built this sort of forgotten chapter of my life.

(Soundbite of song, "Jidka")

Ms. ANGLANA: (Singing in Somali)

BRAND: Tell me about the title song of your album, "Jidka." What does that mean?

Ms. ANGLANA: Jidka means the line.

BRAND: Mm-hmm?

Ms. ANGLANA: As a hybrid person belonging to different cultures, I have a sort of a line on my belly, which divides - it's in two parts: the lighter one and the one darker. It's a very strange and funny tattoo I have on my - but natural, natural one. And I wanted to call this album "Jidka" because this line is the symbol of a union of opposites. I'm the daughter of this union - and the Jidka means (speaks in foreign language).

(Soundbite of song, "Jidka")

Ms. ANGLANA: (Singing in Somali)

BRAND: I wonder if we could go out on a song from your album. I think it's called "Hoio"; it's spelled H-O-I-O. Is that how you pronounce?

Ms. ANGLANA: Right. It's very good. Bravo.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ANGLANA: It's good.

BRAND: Okay. "Hoio" - what does hoio mean in Somali?

Ms. ANGLANA: It means mother, mama.

BRAND: Mama? You mentioned earlier that your love of music and song came from your mother and...


BRAND: ...the Somali lullabies she would sing. And I understand that this is a song based on an ancient Somali lullaby.

Ms. ANGLANA: It is. And all the people that sing this song to their babies always put something new in this song. I wanted to put in this song something of my experience, of what I understood about Diaspora, mothers who live far away from their babies and their sending sometimes money to their babies. But this is not the natural way of living.

Do you want me to sing?

BRAND: Yes, please.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ANGLANA: Okay. Tsangi(ph) "Hoio." Yes.

(Soundbite of song, "Hoio")

Ms. ANGLANA: (Singing) (Singing in Somali)

BRAND: Saba's first album, "Jidka" - the line - is being released today. You can hear songs from her album as well as songs that she performed live for us in the studios in Turin, Italy, at our music Web site,

(Soundbite of song, "Hoio")

Ms. ANGLANA: (Singing in Somali)

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