Hibo Elmi © De Lovie for Monheim Triennale
Photo: Hibo Elmi © De Lovie for Monheim Triennale

Hibo Elmi (UG)

‘Usually I like to play alone by myself, because I have sometimes moments of anxiety, and that way I can make my own mistakes,’ revealed the Uganda based artist Hibo Elmi in her artist talk during the 2021 Prequel edition of the Monheim Triennale. But those who were present during those four magic days in July of 2021 remember her sharing the stage with many other artists from the roster.
Hibo explains what made her change her whole artistic ecosystem so drastically: ‘When I met Greg Fox and Sam Amidon the idea came up to play together. First I was too scared – but then I thought: “Why not, it is time to step out of my comfort zone!” Even though they did not know what I was going to play, it worked out perfectly.’ With the result that Hibo and her colleagues are literally counting down the days till when they are able to continue their concerted journey into sounds on stage in Monheim am Rhein.

This is not the only epiphany Hibo shared with the audience. She also gave insights into the local music scene of Uganda: ‘In the beginning when I started to dj, there were no other women around. Everytime I came to play somewhere, the man plugged me out: “This is not a female job!” We are supposed to be dancing in the club and not to play the music. So we started our own little place called 154 where we trained us in djing. One producer told me: “If a woman wants to be a successful musician, she has to sleep with the producer!” – Well, not when I am the producer. Nobody has to sleep with anyone, we just have to make music. So it became a really big movement for us to take over. First it was just fun, but now it became a responsibility for us to change the society that we are living in. I see positive changes.’

To understand the musical world of Hibo Elmi better, one has to be familiar with her family background in Somalia and later on in Ethiopia. ‘When our mum ran away from her country, the only things she took with her were her cassettes. Every morning she listened to them to feel how it felt at home.’ – that way Hibo and her twin sister Houdini (who is also scheduled to play the 2022 edition of the Monheim Triennale) also were enabled to travel back with the music to the home of their ancestors and learn about the deep artistic history of Somalia.

All quotes are from the Artist Talk with Thomas Venker as part of the 2021 Prequel issue.

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