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Cold Specks’ journey of discovery

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For much of her career, Ladan Hussein went out of her way not to reveal too much about herself. Though she’s a singer/songwriter, she chose to perform under the name Cold Specks because she was uncomfortable using her own name. And in most of her songs, she made a point to distance herself from the subject matter, consciously creating music that wasn’t directly representative of her own life or who she is.

After a few years, Hussein took a step back and realized that all these efforts were unnecessary. And for that matter, the various layers of identities she created for herself became too difficult to unravel.

“I was always attracted to musicians like Bat for Lashes and Flying Lotus, so I called myself Cold Specks,” she says. “But people are nosy, so they wanted another name behind the name I already came up with. So I came up with another fake name behind that, Al Spx, because of [punk band] X-Ray Spex… I’m a big Poly Styrene fan. It was just a collection of pseudonyms. It just became so confusing.”

Fool’s Paradise, released in September via Arts & Crafts, is an album that reflects Hussein’s own period of self-discovery and expression after a long period of putting up barriers around her identity. The album features some of the most personal songs that she’s written to date, including “Witness,” a song about the hopelessness amid a chaotic geopolitical climate, while “Exile” features a prayer recited by her mother. It’s not necessarily an album in which everything is easily spelled out in plain language yet nonetheless contains some of the most revealing songs of her career.

It also features some of the most intimate sounding music she’s written. Fool’s Paradise, Hussein’s third album, is a much quieter and more spacious record than its predecessor, the more guitar-driven Neuroplasticity. Instead, the album is defined by its gauzy synthesizers and gentler melodies, which make them feel much more intimate. It’s not a coincidence that Cold Specks’ most personal album is the one that’s the starkest, though the shift in approach is also partially the result of Hussein’s own short attention span.

“I came off of touring the last record, which was a very loud record with a loud band, and immediately I wanted to strip everything back,” she says. “It was grueling and hard on my voice, and I just grew tired of it. I think the records are so different because when I finish it, I tour it endlessly. And I get so bored so easily. It’s a very conscious decision to make it sound different, because I think I am trying to challenge myself in some way. But I also just get very bored.”

Hussein, who lives in Toronto, comes from a Muslim family of Somali immigrants, and Fool’s Paradise reflects that heritage, particularly in the title track, which she describes as a song “about detaching from a crumbling world.” It’s the first Cold Specks song in which she sings in Somali. Toward the end of the track, she chants the name “Araweelo,” who is a legendary Somali queen who was one of the country’s first female monarchs, as well as a ruler who became known for castrating male prisoners. The track also features the phrase “kala garo naftaada iyo laftaada,” which is an expression that Hussein heard often in her own family.

“The title track, ‘Fool’s Paradise,’ is the only time I sing in Somali. The phrase I sing is a Somali idiom that my grandmother used to say: ‘Understand the difference between your bones and your soul,’” she says. “So I found myself singing those words—to understand the difference between your bones and your soul—around the time the Muslim ban happened, when I wrote the song. I found my grandmother’s words just came out naturally.

“I’m sure there’s a religious meaning originally behind it,” she adds, explaining her interpretation of the idiom. “For me it’s more about self-care and detachment, and nurturing my soul.”

While Hussein largely looked inward on her latest set of songs, she did take influence from some outside sources and past collaborators. Cold Specks has worked with a long list of other artists over her career, including Swans and Moby. Prior to this album, she appeared on the track “Dead Editors” by Massive Attack, and the experience fed into her own creative process.

“A lot of the songs and sounds on this record… came to life after sessions with Massive Attack. And I’m sure that spoke to my songwriting process. On ‘Solid,’ for instance, I wanted specifically something that reminded me of [Massive Attack’s] ‘Safe from Harm,’” she says.

The experience of making Fool’s Paradise was one that led Hussein to both appreciate herself and be less guarded about who she is. She’s also comfortable letting that go when the music hits someone else’s ears. This is music that’s very personal to her, but she says it’s up to the listener to determine what it means to them.

“I can just make the best art I can possibly make,” she says. “Once it’s out there, it doesn’t belong to me. If people want to listen to it and enjoy it, that’s cool. Just listen to it and let it soothe you.”

Canada

Somali youth project update (Project TooSoo)

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CBC —  For the past year, a group of young Somalis in Toronto has been learning how to re-claim the stories told about their community.

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Minnesota

Rep. Ellison, Rep. Emmer, and Colleagues Introduce Resolution Condemning Terror Attack in Mogadishu

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WASHINGTON — On the one-month anniversary of the October 14th terror attack on Mogadishu, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), along with Reps. Steve Stivers (R-OH), Karen Bass (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Erik Paulsen (R-MN), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), and Denny Heck (D-WA) introduced House Resolution 620, which condemns the attack, expresses sympathy for its victims and their families, and reaffirms U.S. support for Somalia.

The October 14th terror attack killed more than 350 people, including three American citizens, and injured another 200—making it the single deadliest in Somalia’s history.

“It’s been a month since the terrible and cowardly attack on Mogadishu, and my heart still breaks for the people of Somalia and their families and friends here in the United States,” Ellison said. “The people of Somalia have shown incredible resilience— coming together not only as part of an inspiring effort to recover from this attack, but also to rebuild their nation in the spirit of peace and prosperity. I am proud to stand with my colleagues to express solidarity with the people of Somalia by strongly condemning the senseless violence, extending our condolences to all those affected by the attack, and reaffirming continued U.S. support for Somalia.”

“Just over a month ago, Mogadishu experienced a horrific and tragic terrorist attack,” said Emmer. “This attack hit close to home with three of our fellow Americans – including one Minnesotan – among the more than 350 men, women and children who lost their lives far too soon. I stand with my colleagues and the Somali community to condemn last month’s attack. I am proud to work with my colleagues to offer condolences and lend support as Somalia works to rebuild itself and its communities in the wake of this recent tragedy. Today, and every day, we stand against terror and join together to rid this world of evil.”
The full text of the resolution reads as follows:

“Strongly condemning the terrorist attack in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 14, 2017, and expressing condolences and sympathies to the victims of the attack and their families.

Whereas on October 14, 2017, a truck bomb filled with military grade and homemade explosives detonated at a busy intersection in the center of Mogadishu, Somalia, and took the lives of more than 350 people and injured more than 200 additional people;

Whereas at least three Americans, Ahmed AbdiKarin Eyow, Mohamoud Elmi, and Abukar Dahie, were killed in the attack;

Whereas the Somali Government believes that Al-Shabaab was responsible for the attack, although no official claims of responsibility have yet been made;

Whereas Al-Shabaab has previously avoided claiming responsibility for Al Shabaab operations when it believes the operation may significantly damage its public image among Somalis;

Whereas the Department of State condemned ‘‘in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks that killed and injured hundreds in Mogadishu on October 14’’;

Whereas the Department of State stated that ‘‘the United States will continue to stand with the Somali government, its people, and our international allies to combat terrorism and support their efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity’’;

Whereas according to the Department of State’s Country Report on Terrorism for 2016, Al-Shabaab is the most potent threat to regional stability in East Africa;

Whereas the United States continues to support counterterrorism efforts in coordination with the Government of Somalia, international partners, and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) mainly through capacity building programs, advise and assist missions, and intelligence support;

Whereas Somalia’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, declared three days of national mourning in response to the attack;

Whereas the vibrant, bustling district of Mogadishu where the attack occurred is characteristic of the city’s revitalization, and the solidarity and efforts by the city’s residents to rebuild already are a testament to their resilience; and

Whereas Somalia has been a strong partner to the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) strongly condemns the terrorist attack in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 14, 2017;

(2) expresses its heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies for the victims of the attack and their families;

(3) honors the memories of Ahmed AbdiKarin Eyow, Mohamoud Elmi, and Abukar Dahie, who were murdered in the horrific terrorist attack;

(4) recognizes the significant efforts to combat terrorism by the Government of Somalia, the countries contributing troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia, and United States forces in Somalia;

(5) reaffirms United States support for the Government of Somalia’s efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity and combat terrorism in Somalia; and

(6) renews the solidarity of the people and Government of the United States with the people and Government of Somalia.”

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Sports

Looking back on my Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace | Mo Farah

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I recently had the honour of being knighted by Her Majesty The Queen at Buckingham Palace. When I came to the UK from Somalia aged 8, not speaking any English, who would have thought that my running would eventually lead me here? This was another very special gold medal for me and I am so honoured to have received it. Here’s a little glimpse of how the day went for me.

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