Mohamed Ibrahim Waday (born December 25, 1949), known professionally as Shantam Shubissa, is a prominent Oromo composer, singer and poet. He has lived in Jordan (2 years), Egypt (4 years), Somalia (7 years), Dire Dawa (19 years) and Australia (23 years). Shubissa is one of Oromia’s greatest contributors to music and released songs most actively during 1968 -1982 (50 songs). It was the same time he was politically imprisoned in Somalia and Ethiopia for 7 years.
Shantam was born in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia. As a teenager in the 1960’s, he spent his days composing poetry and writing music. In 1968, he became the lead singer of a band called Tokkummaa Jaalala “Unity of love”. Shantam’s rising popularity in his local region triggered government attention and Shantam, who publicly identified with and sang in the Oromo language, was requested to have all songs approved by government before releasing any further songs. Shantam’s approved songs were released and his concerts also became a place for the government to advertise politics which Shantam criticised and stopped. During a concert on August 16, 1968, Shantam and all his band were publicly arrested for incitement and sent to trial at the High Court. Shantam’s family arranged to have him released on bail, during which he escaped to Hargeisa, Somalia.
Shantam immediately travelled to Mogadishu and visited what was the first Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) Office, located in Roma St of the Hamar Weyne District. Shantam’s ability to linguistically create new words (such as alaaba “flag”) and rapidly compose new songs in as quickly as ten minutes, astounded the office members. He was introduced to leaders who in turned escorted Shantam to a music studio so he can compose and release new songs for the Oromo people. After composing a new song, the OLF office manager Mohamed Umer Qaadi, Brigade General Waaqoo Guutuu, Hussen Buree Mahmoud Rubee, Umar Rubee, Hussen Sura, Dr. Mohamed Rashad Abdulle and Abdullahi Luungo Italic textarranged for Shantam’s song to be broadcast back into Ethiopia through Radio Mogadishu. The song was called 'Naaf Si Uumee' “You were created for me” and was released on the airwaves on August 18, 1969; two days after Shantam’s original arrest in Dire Dawa.
The release of 'Naaf si Uume' brought international fame for Shamtam. His band, who were still awaiting trial at the High Court were released and exonerated by the government. Oromo people who were being ruled by Ethiopians were being exposed to Shantam’s songs on a much larger scale and Somalian singer Fatima Qasim co-collaborated with Shantam to release his next song Yaa Quburee “Hey gorgeous”.
During Shantam's new found fame, the political situation for Oromo people worsened under the Emperor Haile Selassie and Shantam was approached by Oromo people passing through Somalia for Military Training. They were joining the training for Eriteria Liberation Front, which at the time, were also seeking independence like the Oromo people. Shantam left his work releasing songs and signed up for military training in Yemen. Upon his return to Somalia, Shantam and 35 others were seiged by the Somali Military at the coastal beach. The Somali Military told Shantam to surrender and all 35 men and be transported for interviews by journalists. They were told that they would be driven to the border and journalists were waiting to interview them. All 35 men were advised to hand over their weapons until the interview was over. After each person surrendered their weapons, they were driven to Barbara Prison and told there would be no journalists coming. Shantam was sentenced to death, and this sentence was subsequently reduced to life imprisonment. Eventually, Shantam’s sentence was reduced to five years: October 1970 until October 1975.
Upon release, Shantam returned to work for Radio Mogadishu. He was summoned by Somalian President, Siyaad Barre to use his skills on behalf of Somalia to fight against Emperor Selassie’s in Ethiopia. At the time, new political forces promising socialism were being rumoured in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Emperor’s popularity was also diminishing with promise of new social reforms. Shantam took interest in the new social reforms, quit work at Radio Mogadishu and returned to Ethiopia. The new government, Derg, did not deliver as promised and politically targeted Oromo people. Shantam was re-arrested and sentenced to 1.5 years in Jijjiga prison where he met other singers such as Ture Leenco, Mohamed Ahmed Omar, Mahdi Abdul Qaadir and Hindiya Ahmed Abdulle.
Shantam was released from prison and formed another band Hawwisoo Biiftu Biyya “The Rising Sun” Government political parties took interest in Shantam’s continued popularity and offered opportunities to align with his band. His decision to forgo alliance resulted in the government party using their power to kick Shantam out of his own band. Shantam formed another band with 5 women under a new name, Dawitee Saba “The Mirror of a Nation”.
The stage name ‘Shantam’ translates to English as the number fifty. It was given after Shantam released a song where he composed the same chorus in five different langauges: Arabic, Oromo, Somali, Amharic and Hararian. The word five ‘Shan’ morphed into ‘Shantam’, and the name Shubissa “Dance” was added later. Together, his name is translated as “Fifty, the one who makes (others) dance”
Popular Songs and achievements
Shantam released many songs ranging from a variety of topics including love, nature and revolutionary politics. Although he has not released an official collection of poetry, his most famed classic songs include: -Alaaba Nagayaa “Banner of Peace” -Yaa haadha too “My mother” -Naaf si uume “You were created for me” -Yaa Quburee “Hey Gorgeous”
Shantam migrated to Australia in 1989, after seeking political asylum in Egypt for 2 years. He was received at Footscray Arts Centre in Melbourne, Victoria. He created a band with fellow Oromo revolutionaries, Afandi Siyo and Ture Leenco and lead the first Oromo community radio broadcast in Melbourne, Australia. In 1995, Shantam was awarded for his contributions by the Oromo Radio Committee in (Melbourne, Australia). He also received global recognition for contribution to Language and Culture (Minnesota, USA; 1998), a lifetime contribution to Music and Arts Award in (Melbourne, Australia; 2000) and was officially invited back to Africa as a special guest to open the Oromo Cultural Centre (Adama, Oromia; 2006). Shantam also toured USA, Canada and Germany numerous times, singing to Oromo people living in Diaspora.
In 2012, Shantam composed lyrics and music for 100 songs awaiting release and is currently writing an Oromo-Oromo dictionary, drafting articles on the topic of political Oromo struggle, composing a series of poetry and developing encyclopaedia entries written in the Oromo language.
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