As Somali refugees in Norway, Mo Abdi Farah and his mother lived in a refugee reception centre on arrival in Norway. Here Mo formed a close friendship with another Somali boy Ismail Haji Ahmed. Together they sang and danced for others in the centre and when their families were eventually able to move out into the suburbs, the two families remained close in location. The boys were best friends. Both flamboyant and so much alike people often mistook them for twins. Even Mo’s mother referred to the boys as her two sons. They had similar imaginative minds and modern style; and used their creativity to put together shows for local schools and in small venues. Mo was the singer and Isma did the dancing. They just wanted to make people smile and enjoy themselves. The boys loved what they were doing and it gave them a sense of acceptance within their new communities. They made their mark on the Norwegian music scene when they appeared on ‘Norway’s Got Talent’.
In 2010, with Isma’s unfailing support, Mo entered and won a contract record deal on the Norwegian version of The X-Factor. This elevated him into the world of minor celebrity, but he continued to see himself as a normal boy who loves to sing, dance and make people happy.
Mo turned 21 in 2012 and that July he went to the island Utøya, which is 24 miles north west of the capital city Oslo, for a fun weekend retreat to help young people at a Labour Party Youth Camp. The experience ended in tragedy when a far-right extremist, Anders Behring Breivik went on a rampage and killed 69 people on the island. Isma was one of these young people. Mo was physically injured and the horror of the event left him severely psychologically wounded. He doesn’t talk about the day his best friend was taken from him, but he does carry him in his heart and thinks of him every day.
The record company did not put pressure on Mo to return to work, but his dream of spending the rest of his life on stage started to slip away. After a long time in hospital, retraining his knees, Mo had to learn to walk again. He gives all credit of his recovery to his mother, who he says was the person who gave him the support and strength he needed to continue the fight. She had gone through a civil war in Somalia where she lost her whole family, and here in Norway she had to face another tragedy. He cannot praise his mother highly enough.
But Mo recovered. He has worked hard to get back on stage – this is ultimately what makes him happy. Although the trauma of the event has left him without his soul mate, he knows Isma is in a better place. Mo says Isma is a pure man “who was taken out of this world in an evil way”.
Laila Samuelsen, a well-known song writer, wrote an electro-pop ballade called ‘Heal’ for Mo to sing as part of the competition to find the act that will represent Norway in the Eurovision song contest in 2014. The song’s central message is about the strength a human being has even when they go through tough times and experiences. He wants others to think about their faith, moving forward and taking the time to heal. Healing does not take forever, and although he says he lives his life with forgiveness, having witnessed some awful events in Somalia and then in Norway, there are some things he will not be able to forgive.
“I always do my best - it is the only thing I can do. There is no point being angry – you won't get far in life if you are angry. Life is too short to be sad.”
Mohamed "Mo" Abdi Farah
To see Mo's song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7eEzlQ1AD4#t=8