Aar Maanta Brings a Unique Sound to the Twin Cities

Oscar Cozza, Visual Media Editor

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Aar Maanta is a Somali musician from England who combines traditional Somali music with many other genres. Despite knowing this, I did not know what to expect when I walked into Aar Maanta’s concert in the Cedar Cultural Center on April 11th. The following 3 hours would prove to me the skill of this artist and his unique musical style. Aar Maanta’s band was remarkably diverse in culture which reflects his experiences living among the other immigrant communities in England. For a few songs at the end of the show, he was also joined by several musicians from the University of Minnesota.

Aar Maanta’s presence in Minneapolis is thanks to Midnimo (meaning ‘unity’ in Somali), a program of the Cedar Cultural Center and Augsburg college. Midnimo is involved in bringing Somali musicians from around the world to the Twin Cities for residencies that include public concerts and workshops. In the past year they have had residencies for 29 musicians.

The genre of Aar Maanta’s music is difficult to put a finger on. He was influenced by and holds a great amount of respect for classical Somali music typically played on the Oud, but his music also shows the influence of Western styles of music including hip hop, house, reggae and pop. One of his band members, Nahini Doumbia, is a djembe player from Mali and brings the district percussion of West Africa to Aar Maanta’s sound as well. Aar Maanta refers to his style of music as ‘Afro Hop’ and it is truly unlike anything I have ever heard anywhere else.

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