‘King of Oud’ Somali musician Hudeydi dies from coronavirus

The internationally-renowned oud player Ahmed Ismail Hussein, known as Hudeydi, has died in London at the age of 92. Reports indicate he died from Covid-19 after four days in hospital.

Calling him one of the founding fathers of Somali music, Hanna Ali, the artistic director of the UK-based Kayd Somali Arts and Culture centre, said Hudeydi’s music “embodied the sound of the long struggle to freedom and independence” in the statement.

Born in Berbera in what is now Somaliland in 1928, Hudeydi became a well-known figure as a composer and musician throughout the late 1950s and 1960s during the anti-colonial movement and decolonisation period.

His music became popular beyond Somali borders and he began to tour internationally, where he picked up his nickname, ‘Hudeydi’, and his title as the King of Oud.

The King of Oud became a part of the rich Somali cultural and artistic hub in London after he fled there in the 1990s during the Somali civil war, creating a salon in his home for artists and music lovers alike.

“His music and legacy has been powerful as one that has brought people together, transcribing the independence journey into music and poetry,” said Somali novelist Nadifa Mohamed.

“His classic style known as ‘Qaraami’ songs have become part of the Somali song book and his place in our cultural pantheon is fixed,” she added.

Kayd Somali Arts and Culture centre had the honour of hosting Hudeydi’s final retirement concert in February 2020.

“His iconic legacy lives on through his music and in the memories of all those of us who adored him and continue to do so,” said Kayd Centre’s Director Ali in the statement.

He is survived by his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.