Music of Sudan

The rich and varied music of Sudan is made up of traditional, rural East African roots[1], as well as of Arabic, Western or other African influences on the popular urban music from the early 20th century onwards. Since the establishment of cities like Khartoum as melting pots for people of diverse backgrounds, their cultural heritage and tastes have shaped numerous forms of modern popular music. In the globalized world of today, the creation and consumption of music through satellite TV or on the internet is a driving force for change in Sudan, popular with local audiences as well as with Sudanese living abroad.

Even after the secession of South Sudan in 2011, the Sudan of today is very diverse, with five hundred plus ethnic groups spread across the country's territory, which makes it the third largest country in Africa. The cultures of its ethnic and social groups have been marked by the complex cultural legacy, going back to the spread of Islam as well as by indigenous African cultural heritage. Though some of the ethnic groups still maintain their own African language, most Sudanese today speak the distinct Sudanese dialect of Arabic.

Due to its geographic location in East Africa, where African, Arabic, Christian and Islamic culture have shaped people's identities, and on the southern belt of the Sahel region, Sudan has been a cultural crossroads between North, East and West Africa, as well as the Arabian peninsula, for hundreds of years. Thus, it has a rich and very diverse musical culture, ranging from traditional folk music to Sudanese popular urban music of the 20th century and up to the internationally influenced African popular music of today. Despite religious and cultural restrictions towards music or dance in public life during recent history, musical traditions have always enjoyed great popularity with most Sudanese. Even during times of wide-ranging restrictions of public life or the celebration of weddings and other social events, music and dance have always been part of cultural life in Sudan.

For music in South Sudan, which was a part of Sudan until 2011, see the main article: Culture of South Sudan

Famous singer Mohammed el Amin and his band

Folk music and other traditional musical forms [ edit ]

A man playing traditional Sudanese drums.

As in other African regions, the traditional musical styles of Sudan are ancient, rich and diverse, with different regions and ethnic groups having many distinct musical traditions. Music in Africa has always been very important as an integral part of religious and social life of communities. Songs, dance and instrumental music are used in rituals and religious ceremonies, to pass down stories from generation to generation, as well as to bring generations together. Traditional music has been passed down by the example of accomplished musicians to younger generations and was not written, except by modern, formally trained musicians or ethnomusicologists.

Sudan has a strong tradition of lyrical expression that utilizes oblique metaphors, speaks about love or the beauty of the country. The typically East African instrument tambour, or tanbūra, (a lyre) was traditionally used as the usual accompaniment for the singers, but it has been replaced in the 20th century by the Arabic oud.[2] Drums, hand clapping and dancing are other important elements of traditional music, as well as other traditional African instruments, like xylophones, flutes or trumpets. One example for this are the elaborate wooden gourd trumpets, called al Waza[3][4], played by the tribes of the Sudanese Blue Nile State. In contrast to traditional Arabic music, most Sudanese music styles are pentatonic, and the simultaneous beats of percussion in polyrhythms are one of the most prominent characteristics of Sudanese Sub-Sarahan music.

Dervishes and zikr rituals [ edit ]

A Sufidervish drums up the Friday afternoon crowd at the tomb of Sheikh Hamed el-Nil in Omdurman.

The numerous brotherhoods of Sufi Dervishes are mystical groups that use prayers, music and dance to achieve an altered state of consciousness in a tradition called zikr. The drumming sessions of the women's Zār sect are a prominent part of Dervish music.[5] The Sufi orders engage in ritualized dhikr ceremonies that are not considered by the faithful as musical performances, but as a form of prayer. Each order or lineage within an order has one or more forms for group dhikr, the liturgy of which may include recitation, instrumental accompaniment by drums, dance, costumes, incense, meditation, sometimes leading to ecstasy and trance.[6] Dhikr is most often celebrated on Thursday, Friday and/or Sunday nights as part of the institutional practice of the orders.[7][8]

Nuba peoples and their music [ edit ]

The Nuba peoples[9] live in a largely mountainous region between North and South Sudan, and have long been caught in the middle of the Second Sudanese Civil War. The traditional band Black Stars are affiliated with the SPLA, while other well-known singers include Jamus, Jelle, Tahir Jezar and Ismael Koinyi.[5]

Modern popular and pop music [ edit ]

From the early 1920s onwards, radio, records, film and television have contributed to the development of Sudanese popular music by introducing new instruments and styles. As Sudan was administered as an Anglo-Egyptian condominium from 1899 to 1955, British military bands have left their mark, especially through the musical training of Sudanese soldiers and by introducing Western brass instruments or even the Scottish bagpipes. Until today, these marching bands represent a characteristic element in the parades for Independence Day or other official celebrations.

The 1920s - Haqibah and the origins of modern Sudanese music [ edit ]

Modern Sudanese music has its roots in haqibah style music (pronounced hagee-ba and meaning "briefcase"). It originated in the early 1920s, and was originally derived from the Islamic praise of the prophet, known as madeeh. Haqibah is essentially a harmonic vocal style, with percussion coming from the tambourine-like riq and from other instruments. Occasionally, tonal instruments such as the piano and the qanun (a stringed instrument) are used.

The original Briefcase (translated from the Arabic El Haqiba), is a large and somewhat ill-defined collection of Sudanese songs from the mid 20th century, combining strong words and songs by both Sudanese and non-Sudanese poets and musicians. The name comes from the briefcase that the radio presenter Ahmed Osman used to carry the records in and from which he selected the different tracks to play on his radio show back in the 1920s. Over time, these songs became the staple of Sudanese music, with every new genre introduction compared with and torn down against these ‘original’, ‘authentic’ songs.[10]

The 1930s up to the 1950s - Rise of popular music through records, radio and music halls [ edit ]

In the 1930s, a number of music companies opened in Sudan, among them the Gordon Memorial College musical company, which included Mohamed Adam Adham, whose Adhamiya was one of the earliest formal Sudanese compositions, and is still often played.[11]

The early pioneers were mostly singer-songwriters, including the prolific Abdel Karim Karouma[12], author of several hundred songs, the innovative Ibrahim al-Abadi and Khalil Farah, who was active in the Sudanese independence movement.[5] Al-Abadi was known for an unorthodox style of fusing tradition wedding poetry with music. Other songwriters of the era included Mohammed Ahmed Sarror, Al-Amin Burhan, Mohamed Wad Al Faki and Abdallah Abdel Karim.[13] Al Faki was one of many musicians from the area around Kabou-shiya, a region known for its folk music.

Sudanese popular music evolved into what is generally referred to as "post-Haqibah", a style dominating in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. This period was marked by the introduction of tonal instruments from both East and West, such as the violin, accordion, oud, tabla and bongo. A big band style came into existence, mirroring trends in the West. Post-haqibah, like haqibah, was based on the pentatonic scale. Haqibah mixed with Egyptian and European elements is called al-afghani' al-hadith.

The 1940s saw an influx of new names due to the rise of live radio shows at Radio Omdurman[14]. Early performers included Ismail Abdul Mennen, Hassan Atya, and Ahmed al Mustafa. Ismael Abdul Queen was a pioneer who strived to adapt to the new conditions and deserted the old style. He was followed by a singer-songwriter called Ahmed Ibrahim Falah. But both were soon overtaken by Ibrahim al Kashif, who became known as the "Father of modern singing". Al Kashif began to sing under the influence of Haj Mohamed Ahmed Sarour and relied on what the pioneer of Sudanese singing Abdel-Karim Karouma had started, renewing these popular singing styles. For live performances, there were also two dance halls in Khartoum, St James' and the Gordon Music Hall.

The 1960s up to the 1980s - International influence of Western and African pop music [ edit ]

In the 1960s, American pop stars became well known, which had a profound effect on Sudanese musicians like Osman Alamu and Ibrahim Awad, the latter becoming the first Sudanese musician to dance onstage.[5] Under these influences, Sudanese popular music saw a further Westernisation, with the introduction of guitars and brass instruments; guitars came from the south of the country, played like the Congolese guitar styles. Congolese music like soukous, as well as Cuban rumba, exerted a profound influence on Sudanese popular music.[15]

An important shift in modern Sudanese music was introduced by the group Sharhabil and His Band - formed by a group of friends from Omdurman - namely Sharhabil Ahmed[16], Ali Nur Elgalil Farghali, Kamal Hussain, Mahaddi Ali, Hassan Sirougy and Ahmed Dawood. They introduced modern rhythms relating to Western pop and soul music, using for the first time electric guitars, double bass, and brass instruments, with the emphasis on the rhythm section. The lyrics were also poetic and popular. Up to the 2010s, Sharhabil's band has been one of the leading names in Sudanese music, performing both at home as well as internationally.

Starting in the 1940s, female singers became socially acceptable with the rise of Mihera bint Abboud, Um el Hassan el Shaygiya and Aisha al Falatiya, who as early as 1943 was the first woman to sing on Sudanese radio. During the 60s, a wave of female vocal duos became prominent. A band composed of three sisters called Al Balabil[17] formed in the early 1970s and became very popular across East Africa. The 1980s also saw the rise of Hanan Bulu-bulu, a singer whose performances were sensual and provocative; she was eventually detained by the authorities and even beaten up by hardliners.[18]

International popular genres like Western dance music, rock or pop music and African-American music, have had a profound effect on modern Sudanese music. As in other African countries, one of these were the British military brass bands. Playing in such bands attracted many young recruits, who later carried the music style and instruments over to popular music. The result was a kind of dance music, referred to as (Sudanese) jazz, not related to the American style of jazz, but similar to analogous modern styles throughout East Africa. Prominent band leaders in this era include Abdel Gadir Salim and Abdel Aziz El Mubarak, both of whom have achieved some international fame and distribution of their albums.[5] - In retrospect, the 70s and 80s were called "The Golden Age of Sudanese popular music".[19]

The 1990s up to the 2000s - Restrictions through sharia law and the decline of popular music [ edit ]

Popular singer Omer Ihsas & his Peace Messengers from Darfur

After the military coup in 1989, the imposition of sharia law by an Islamist government brought about the closing of music halls and outdoor concerts, as well as many other restrictions for musicians and their audiences. Many of the country's most prominent musicians or writers were barred from public life, and in some cases even imprisoned, while others, like Mohammed el Amin[20] and Mohammed Wardi, took exile in Cairo or other places.[21] Traditional music suffered too, with traditional Zār ceremonies being interrupted and drums confiscated.[5]

The popular singer Abu Araki al-Bakheit[22] was banned from performing political songs, but he eventually managed to continue performing in defiance of the authorities. The Southern Sudanese celebrated singer Yousif Fataki had all his tapes erased by Radio Omdurman. Other modern popular performers of the time include Abdel Karim el Kabli, with a notably long and diverse history of performance, Mohammed al Amin and Mohammed Wardi.[5] Up to this time, the vast majority of Sudanese singers expressed their lyrics in (Sudanese) Arabic, thereby touching the feelings of their national audience as well as the growing number of Sudanese living abroad, notably in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries.

International musicians popular in Sudan included reggae superstar Bob Marley and American pop singer Michael Jackson, while the funk of James Brown inspired Sudanese performers like Kamal Kayla. The spread of international pop music through radio, TV, cassette tapes and digital recordings also inspired a growing number of Sudanese musicians to sing in English, connecting their music with the outside world. - Even though the government discouraged music, dance and theatre, the College of Music and Drama of Sudan University in Khartoum has continued to offer courses and degrees, thus giving young people a chance to study music or drama.

The 2000s and up to the present [ edit ]

Reggae, hip hop and rap [ edit ]

As in other countries, reggae, rap or hip hop music combines local talents and international, young audiences, both in live performances as well as on the internet. Among other issues, these communities in Sudan have attempted to utilize the subversive power and immense popularity to call for freedom of expression and democratic unity of the country. Ever since the Sudanese protests started in December 2018, musicians, poets and visual artists have been playing an important part in the mainly youth driven movement.[23] International artists, such as the extremely popular Bangs, who was born in Juba, South Sudan, see the genre as an avenue for peace, tolerance, and community for millions of African youth, who are powerful in numbers, but politically marginalised. As the example of South Sudanese singer Emmanuel Jal shows, the lyrics have the unique ability to reach even child soldiers to imagine a different lifestyle. According to Jimmie Briggs, author of Innocence Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War, “A music group is not an army, but it can get powerful social messages out before trouble starts.[24]

Popular Sudanese music of the 21st century [ edit ]

Since producing music in recording studios, using modern instruments and digital media, has become available in Sudan, growing numbers of people are listening to private online radio stations or watching music videos.[25] As in other countries with restrictions of freedom of expression, the use of smartphones offers especially young, urban and educated people, and most importantly, Sudanese women, a relatively safe space for exchange with their friends or distant relatives, as well as access to many sources of entertainment, learning or general information.[26]

Until the Sudanese Revolution of 2018/19, permission for public concerts had to be obtained by the Ministry of Culture as well as by the police, and after 11 pm, all public events had to end. As the mostly young audiences did not have enough money to pay for tickets, most concerts, for example in the National Theatre in Omdurman, the garden of the National Museum of Sudan or the Green Yard sports arena in Khartoum, were offered free of charge. Musical performances were also organized in the premises of the French, German or British Cultural centres, giving young artists a chance to perform in a sheltered environment. Workshops with visiting artists or festivals like the international Sama Music Festival[27] have given opportunities to young Sudanese musicians to improve their skills and experience. Famous local artists of this era are Igd el Galad[28], Nancy Ajaj or Aswat al Madina[29], all of them singing more or less obvious lyrics about their love to the country, which they claim as their heritage and future, despite the ruling government. - As members of the important group of Sudanese living abroad, the female singer Alsarah & The Nubatones or the songs of Oddisee are examples of Sudanese-born musicians in the US, who, thanks to the internet, also have their following back home. Another popular expatriate Sudanese musician is Sammany Hajo, based in Qatar.[30]

Following their musical studies at Ahfad University for Women in Omdurman, as well as by participating in workshops and concerts at the local German cultural institute in Khartoum, a band of young women called Salute yal Bannot[31] became well known in 2017. Their song African Girl[32] has scored more than 100,000 clicks on YouTube alone and earned them an invitation to the popular music show Arabs got Talent in Beirut. After the band dissolved, their lead singer, composer and keyboard player Hiba Elgizouli[33] is pursuing her own career, also producing artistic music videos.[34]

Another musical example of Sudanese artists celebrating the many faces and social roles of women in today's Sudan is the popular music video Sudaniya (Sudanese woman) that has been watched by more than 6 million viewers on YouTube.[35]

References [ edit ]

  1. ^ "Traditional music in Africa". Music In Africa. 2018-06-01. Retrieved 2019-11-15.
  2. ^ Through his recordings for western labels, the late composer and oud player Hamza El Din became internationally known. He was, however of Southern Egyptian Nubian origin, and sang both in his native dialect of Sudanese Arabic as well as in the Nubian language.
  3. ^ "Al-waza : A musical instrument represent the Sudanese heritage * Khartoum Star". Khartoum Star. 2019-09-05. Retrieved 2019-11-14.
  4. ^ Waza trumpet returns as residents in Sudan's Blue Nile region mark end of harvest , retrieved 2019-11-14
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Broughton, Simon and Mark Ellingham (eds) with James McConnachie and Orla Duane (2000). Rough Guide to World Music, Vol. 1. Rough Guides Ltd. ISBN 1-85828-636-0. - "Yearning to Dance" by Verney, Peter with Helen Jerome and Moawia Yassin, pgs. 672-680
  6. ^ Habib Hassan Touma (1996). The Music of the Arabs, trans. Laurie Schwartz. Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0-931340-88-8. pg. 162
  7. ^ "The Sufis of Khartoum". - Dialogue with the Islamic World. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  8. ^ Kheir, Ala; Burns, John; Algrefwi, Ibrahim (2016-02-05). "The psychedelic world of Sudan's Sufis – in pictures". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-11-10.
  9. ^ Schuman, Aaron. "'Lost' early color photographs of Sudanese tribes published". CNN. Retrieved 2019-11-14.
  10. ^ Gaafar, Reem. "Briefcase: Bridging Musical Generational Gaps". Andariya cultural magazine. Retrieved December 15, 2005.
  11. ^ "Sudanese Singing 1908-1958". By: El Sirr A. Gadour. December 15, 2005. Archived from the original on April 26, 2006.
  12. ^ "عبد الكريم كرومة". Discogs. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  13. ^ "Music in Sudan". Sudan Update. Retrieved December 15, 2005.
  14. ^ "The Golden Era of Omdurman Songs « Music Time in Africa". Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  15. ^ "Sharhabeel Ahmed: Sudan's king of jazz". Al-Ahram Weekly. Archived from the original on September 20, 2005. Retrieved September 27, 2005.
  16. ^ "Sharhabeel Ahmed: Sudan's king of jazz". Masress. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  17. ^ nur (2016-06-21). "The 'Sudanese Supremes'". The Stream - Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  18. ^ "Women singers". Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  19. ^ Sohonie, Vik. "'There was music on every corner of every street in Khartoum'". Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  20. ^ "Mohammed el Amin". Retrieved 2019-11-14.
  21. ^ Mohammed el Amin returned to Sudan in 1991 and Mohammed Wardi returned in 2003.
  22. ^ "Artist Profiles: Abu Araki al-Bakheit | World Music". Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  23. ^ "10 Hip Hop Tracks From The Sudanese Revolution". Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  24. ^ Ireland, Corydon. "Conference Brings Out Pacific Potential of African Hip-Hop. The Ambassadors are also an up and coming hip-hop duo from Sudan living in the U.S."
  25. ^ Shawkat, Omnia (2016-11-08). "Afrodiziac & Impact Interview with Ahmad Hikmat". Andariya Magazine. Retrieved 2019-11-15.
  26. ^ Gaafar, Reem (2019-02-13). "Sudanese Women at the Heart of the Revolution". Andariya magazine. Retrieved 2019-11-15.
  27. ^ "Fourth edition of SAMA Music Festival - Goethe-Institut Sudan". Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  28. ^ "عقد الجلاد". Discogs. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  29. ^ "Home". Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  30. ^ Sammany - Matalib | A COLORS SUDAN SHOW , retrieved 2019-11-12
  31. ^ Welle (, Deutsche. "'Respect to the girls'- meet Sudan's all-female band | DW | 08.09.2016". DW.COM. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  32. ^ KHARTOUM/MUSIKRAUM: Salute Yal Bannot "African Girl" سالوت يا البنوت / البنت الإفريقية , retrieved 2019-11-12
  33. ^ "Hiba Elgizouli". Music In Africa. 2018-06-23. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  34. ^ Hiba Elgizouli - Bidaya (Official Music Video) , retrieved 2019-11-14
  35. ^ سودانية , retrieved 2019-11-14

External links [ edit ]

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