How a Reality Show Returned Music to the Somali Public

When the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab banned music in Somalia, citizens like Xawa Abdi Hassan were forced to find another way to listen. Hassan, who went from secretly singing in the comfort of her own home, eventually became a contestant on an American-Idol style music show called "Inspire Somalia."

"Inspire Somalia" was created by the United Nations "as a kind of inoculation against the austerity of Shabab," says Ben Parker, head of communications for the UN in Mogadishu.

By using reality television as a model for what life could look like, the Somali public were introduced to more than just music. "After all," says Invisibilia host Alix Spiegel, "not only is there music in a musical reality show, there's democratic voting and individual expression."

The full episode "Invisibilia: Inspired By 'American Idol,' Somali TV Show Aimed To Change The World" is available on the NPR website.

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