Monday Music: Sudan and the power of music

How do countries choose the date of their independence day? I have no idea, but I wonder if whoever chose 1 January for Sudan (which turned 59 last Thursday), thought of it as an auspicious day for new beginnings.

As has too often been the case for countries born out of centuries of colonisation and exploitation, Sudan’s history since 1965 has been violent and genocidal. However it’s also often the case that non-Africans like to focus on the drama and disasters of Africa, and that’s why this week I share links to some insider views of Sudanese people that focus instead on Africans’ agency and power.

The views are those of film-maker Hajooj Kuka, who has made a film about how music supports the resilience of Sudanese refugees now living in camps in South Sudan, and Nubian singer Alsarah, who accompanied Kuka on the trip to record their music. If you don’t have time to listen to all the tracks in Alsarah’s article, at least check out the wonderful harmonies of the 3rd (Girls’ music) and the mesmerising bird-like flutes and ululations of the last.

Here’s Alsarah herself.

I’m not sure what the song means, but what the video says to me, especially having just read about Kuka’s film, is that in spite of war and hardship, a joyful and potent treasure remains safely locked in the heart of a culture: its music.

So here’s to Sudan: may your next 59 years bring an end to the struggle and a flowering of your society, and many, many more songs.



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