Radio stations broadcasting out of Somalia face a dilemma this month after a powerful Islamist militant group ordered them to stop playing music.
Saying that the playing of music was un-Islamic, Hizbul-Islam announced on Saturday that stations had 10 days to take it off air.
The punishment for failing to comply was not specified but 11 radio stations based in the capital, Mogadishu, are thought to be directly affected.
If they drop music, they stand to lose listeners. If they ignore the warning, they face the wrath of the militants.
Music-lovers in the war-torn country are indignant at the idea they will not be able to tune into their favourite pop, which is largely recorded abroad, in North America and the UK.
However, there appear to be limits to Hizbul-Islam’s ability to make good on any threat.
Somali pop music, ranging from the plaintive songs of Abdi Shirre Jama (aka Jooqle) to the hip hop and rap of K’Naan, is widely on sale in Mogadishu.
It can be heard playing in the tea shops of the government-controlled area, which amounts to about a third of the capital, says local BBC reporter Mohammed Olad Hassan.
Somalis have to be more discreet about music in non-government areas. Al-Shabab, the country’s other big militant group, are known for their own strict interpretation of Islam, frowning on music and cinema.
“You can see drivers on passenger buses playing music inside the government-controlled area, then turning it off when they cross into non-government territory,” our reporter says.
Pop music is genuinely popular in Mogadishu and many people resent being “bullied” into what they can hear on the radio, he adds.
Hizbul-Islam would have all music, right down to the jingles, taken off air, he says.
“Deny a Somali his music and his poetry, and you deny him his voice,” says Christophe Farah, a journalist of Somali descent in London.
In a fractured state like Somalia, radio remains the most influential medium. …