Lost in the Shadows
Ujamaa? You betcha!
Short Description: Afroflash with a Somali Accent
Dress: One would like to assume that such an edgy and hip crowd as my fellow dwellers-in-shadow would already be quite aware of the biggest new movement in clubware of the 70’s. I mean, anyone who’s not living under a rock in Siberia knows what Afroflash is, certainly. One would like to assume that, however years of sad experience have taught the Vu that people who can do hexadecimal coding in their heads or know a dozen different languages or keep abreast of realtime shifts in corporate politics can often be woefully ignorant on even the basics of modern fashion. Which is, of course, what the Vu is simply FOR. So, a primer for the sartorially-impaired. Afroflash glorifies african culture in a post-modern, globalist, selectively condescending way, combining Bogolanfini patterns and such uniquely African (generally West African) items as kaftans and dashiki with modern smart fabrics that glitter and flow and reveal while dancing.
Here in the Cities, Afroflash first took root among the Somali community and they modified it with a distinctly ‘East African’ flavor. Men wear less long-flowing robes more the pants-and-kilt combo known as the macawiis, embroidered koofiyad caps and a strange mix-mash from other modern styles, done both to complement and to clash (knowing when and when not to clash is a art. One the Vu has mastered, naturally). Among women, they long billowing dresses over petticoats, known as direh, and a four-yard cloth tied over shoulder and draped around the waist, the coatino. All but the most rebellious of the ladies wear a hijab over their head and both genders favor ridiculously flamboyant shawls. Altogether, if done correctly, Heemaal is quite an exotic feast for the eyes.
Symbols: Islamic design sensibilities are very much in evidence in Heemaal, even among those who just adopt the style for going out to the clubs, so no direct representations of things, a lot of beautiful Islamic calligraphy and complex geometric patterns, fractal representations of numbers from the Quran are especially popular this season. A good way to tell the true Heemaal from the poseurs is to know a little Arabic, a lot of the knock-off Heemaal designs are just fancy-looking swirls and lines that don’t actually make words. Vu admires their balls at the same time abhorring their tackiness.
Lingo: It’s not so much the words, although you will hear a lot of Somali in the music, as much as the rhythm. I’ve noticed that people who listen to a lot Heemaal music, especially the local stuff, will pick up the fast, almost musical cadence of the codka, the singers, and it infects their speech. Truly ardent Heemaal will retain that lovely lilt even in the most, shall we say “distracting”? of situations.
- Styles: Afroflash
- What’s on Their Playlists?: Abyssinia, All of All, Down Babylon
- Local bands: Odka, Mahdi New, Dawlada Daraawiish, Crooked Rib
For those of you (the Vu is not making eye contact with all you Hackers out there, but…) who don’t get out much, the Vu is going to take a moment and make a distinction between a subculture and a style.
Hey, I resent that remark!
You resemble that remark. Where you have you been, my little one-women high-pressure area?
Now that would be telling. And you know what they says about what the curiosity did to the George, right?
Made him wear that horrendous yellow hat? Oh, perish the thought…
While Heemaal (which is Somali for ‘style’ or ‘beauty’) certainly has its roots in the thriving Somali community in the Twin Terrors, Heemaal is a style, and what a style, and what a style, of music and dress that is appropriated mainly by non-Somali (most of the Somali community tend to be a teensy-tiny bit too actually-Islamic to approve of dancing and clubbing and all the other marvelously sinful things done in ‘the scene’, I mean, the Vu is all for the power of imagination, but you can’t really go clubbing in a burqa…) for dancing and clubbing and simply being seen in. However, even with its reek of exotic immorality, be advised that the Islamic influence does lend itself to a reasonably large straight edge sub-community within Heemaal, with a larger influence, so that it is quite common to find people into Heemaal who won’t touch a drop of the ol’ vino but will hook you up with nearly anything else you could hope to smoke, chew, ingest or inject. Good ol’ ganj and khat, a type of red leaf that releases a mild stimulant from East Africa (and more recently, Kansas and Iowa) are especially common.
The undisputed center of Heemaal is at the Five by Five which is lovely and exciting as they say, but with one minor hiccup, the company. Most of the scaremongering you’ve seen on the trids recently with Heemaal or “Afroflash thugs” is actually the Riverside Jihad gang, who are far too dreary to detail here, but are definitely going to be a factor in any major Heemaal scene.
And they do not love the Vu, for reasons that should be reasonably obvious… their loss…
Do NOT go to the Five when the Jihad are there in force. Fighting with the minor drug pushers, harassing any woman dressed as a ‘harlot’. I’d say they were on drugs except they don’t touch ‘em. So, my only advice to these guys is that they must be chipping the wrong thing. When did ’Total Drekhole’ become a popular BTL?