Accepted Paper:

Giving love voice: imagination, empathy and "taste" in the making of Somali love songs  
Christina Woolner (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the imaginative, empathic and ethical work that goes into making a Somali love song - a multi-vocal account-making process in which a poet, musician and singer each have a part to play in conveying the "taste" of another's love(-suffering) experience.

Paper long abstract:

According to fans of Somali love songs, the best songs are those that come from "deep, deep within the soul" to make you "feel what she feels" - songs in which you can "taste" the experience of love(-suffering) about which a given singer sings. The process by which love experiences become love songs, however, is a decidedly multi-vocal one that usually involves input from, at a minimum, a poet (and his muse), a musician and a vocalist. This is an account-making process that requires not only artistic knowledge and skill, but also an acute ability to "taste" (dhadhanso) and then represent the deeply intimate experiences of another. Drawing on conversations with Somali poets, musicians and singers, and broader ethnographer research on the labour of love songs in contemporary Hargeysa, this paper explores the imaginative, empathic and ethical work that go into the making of a love song that is able to successfully convey - in words, sound and voice - the "taste" or truth (ruun) of the original love experience. I conclude with a reflection on what this account-making process may contribute to anthropological ideas of empathy, as well as the doing and writing of ethnography.

Panel Cre05
Making accounts count: imagination, creativity, and (in)coherence