Broadcasters mock music ban with gunfire, frogs and cocks

Broadcasters in Mogadishu have responded to a ban imposed by Islamist insurgents on airing any form of music with a bitter sense of irony: where once there were songs and jingles, now there is recorded gunfire, a sound with which the battle-scarred capital's residents have become all too familiar.



Other replacements for now-forbidden melodies include croaking frogs and crowing cockerels. Braver broadcasters are considering adding braying donkeys to the list.



"We are not allowed to play music and we have to fill the slot, so we came up with this; these are the sounds one hears most often in this city, so I think they are appropriate," said a broadcaster who preferred anonymity.



Most of the roughly 16 radio stations in Mogadishu have resorted to this tactic.



The ban, which came into effect on 13 April, was instituted by Hisbul Islam and Al-Shabab Islamist groups which, for years, have fought government troops in and around Mogadishu, causing the displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians.



"Our only break from the shelling, the gunfire and general insecurity was listening to Somali music in our homes," Abdulkadir Abdirahman, a Mogadishu resident, said. "Now that is not possible; I will listen to this one and have a good laugh."



He said many city residents used to enjoy listening to Somali music broadcast by the radio stations.



"This morning, when I turned on the radio, the first thing I heard was the sound of gunfire and I was not sure what was happening until a reporter explained what they were doing. I laughed so hard," Abdirahman said. "I actually have some friends who are enjoying the new tunes."



A journalist working in one of the radio stations said the station's management was unsure about what to do about the edict.



"We always start all our programmes, except the religious ones, with a Somali jingle; today we started with a cockerel crowing," he said, adding "who knows, tomorrow we may start with the sound of frogs or donkeys."



Most radio stations have complied with the order, he said. "Government owned Radio Mogadishu is still playing music and jingles," he added.



He was not sure how long this would last. "They may decide to ban these sounds also. It is silly and crazy at the same time but it is the world we live in today."



The biggest sin?



Ali Sheikh Yassin, the deputy chairman of the Mogadishu-based Elman Human Rights Organization, told IRIN banning music on radio was an attempt to deny people information.



"Here we are, talking about music as a sin against Islam, yet the biggest sin of all, killing humans, is being committed every hour of every day. What is more anti-Islam than killing innocent people," Yassin said.



"Yesterday [13 April] we recorded 20 people killed and over 70 injured," he said.



He said the stations had come up with "a very funny and novel way of dealing with this [ban] but I am afraid they [insurgents] will come up with more draconian edicts."



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