Global Hit – Saba

The World

Next week, a new CD will come out by an Italy-based singer named Saba. Saba taps into the music of the horn of Africa. But as The World’s Marco Werman explains, one geographic location doesn’t fully reflect Saba’s own story.

Saba Anglana is her full name. But she goes simply by Saba. Even though she left Somalia when she was five, Saba still thinks of herself as Somali. This is a song called Hoio. It’s based on a Somalian lullaby.

This means ‘Your mother, she’s not there, she left, she went away, she left you alone, she took her shoes to start a long journey away.

This is Saba speaking.

�It’s a sort of homesickness that Somali people have because of the Diaspora. It’s just like they are orphans, they don’t have their mother. And in a certain way, in a metaphoric way — their mother is Somalia.�

Saba lost that mother when she was five. The capital, Mogadishu, wasn’t exactly the best place to call home. When Saba and her family lived there, the country was under the thumb of Somali dictator Siad Barre. Saba’s family were expatriates just trying to make a living.

Her father was Italian and a schoolteacher. The Somalian government pegged him an American spy.

�They thought that we were enemies. And of course my mother was Ethiopian, is Ethiopian, and Ethiopians too were enemies for Somalian people. There were a lot of battle, struggles between Ethiopian and Somalian people in that period. So my father and my mother felt as enemies. My family was somehow, they wanted us to go away and they gave us only 48 hours to leave the country.

When she arrived in Italy, Saba found there were plenty of explanations. To her regret though, in the mostly homogenous society that was Italy in the 1970s, it was she who had the explaining to do.

�Since I was a child I had always to explain something about myself, my cultures, and how I was feeling about being not part of a culture rather than the other one. I always have to explain what I am. Even though sometimes I don’t want to do it, I just want to be what I am.�

Saba’s career path has been about framing her mixed identity — a hybrid person as she calls herself — within Italian society. That was the case when she joined the cast a few years ago of “La Squadra.” It’s a successful cop-show franchise in Italy along the lines of Law and Order.

�I was a policewoman, and I was a sort of a bridge between Italians and foreign people. (MW) What’s been kind of the preferable way for you to express these ideas of identity? As a singer, or as an actress who plays a half-Italian half-Somali cop? (Saba) As an actor I have some problems because in Italy they are not ready for hybrid people like me because if they are looking for an African actress they find me too white. And if they are looking for an Italian actress, I’m too black. They can’t find a category to put me. But music gives me a great energy. I mean I speak about those problems, I speak about those trends, and I speak about migration and hybrid people and mixing culture together. So, maybe from that point of view music gives you more freedom.�

Music has given Saba more independence and creativity. TV acting requires you to wait for direction she says. Saba’s debut CD which comes out next week is titled “Jidka.”

For The World, I’m Marco Werman.

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