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Mali wave: the rise of Somali UK rap

Mali wave: the rise of Somali UK rap
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Skore Beezy, 32, is one of the few Somali rappers who has been active on the music scene for over a decade. He’s been making gangster rap long before the phrase Mali wave” was even uttered, collaborating with the likes of Potter Payper, Fredo and Ard Adz. The reason a lot of [Somali rappers] wore masks is because of the backlash they and their families could have faced for making music,” he says. A lot of the Somalis that were making music a couple of years ago weren’t sure if it was even a possible career path, they were just trying a ting. But the risk of backlash from the community was so real. Masks allowed them to dip back into their normal lives if it didn’t work out how they wanted to.”

Although the term Mali wave music became widespread in the UK around around 2020, it originates from the mid-2010s in Toronto, where Somali-Canadian artists such as Robin Banks and Puffy Lz layered auto-tuned vocals over heavy dancehall and dark rap beats. Somalis are proud people,” says Nino. Even before I started making music, when I saw the Canadian Somalis like Puffy Lz, Top 5 and Mo G going off, I was like, yeah, a lot of us have a voice!”

The UK version of Mali wave added further melody to the Toronto sound, which many have drawn similarities to taghanni, a melodic refrain used in Quranic recitation. Many young Somalis attend dugsi (Islamic school to learn and practise Quran under the guidance of an Imam) growing up, so it’s likely that the style was picked up from there.





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