A series of letters from African journalists by Zeinab Mohammed Salih, a Sudanese writer, samples rhythms that reflect a political agenda from Sudan’s Red Sea State.
Noureddine Al-Mawla Jabar has released Beja Power!, a new album that is being called the soundtrack to Sudan’s recent revolution.
The musician, who is better known as Noori on stage, doesn’t want his electrifying sounds to be just a historical record of the 2019 time when Omar al-Bashir, long-time President, was removed following mass protests.
The international release of Ostinato Records’ album in New York is for him a continuation of the resistance of his Muslim nomadic community against successive regimes of Sudan.
The Beja people are from eastern Sudan and live between the mountains, the Red Sea coast and the mountains. This area is rich in gold, but has little to show for its wealth.
As he sat down on the West Bank of the River Nile in Omdurman (the twin city of Khartoum), the 47-year old told me, “Through music I’d like reflect my culture, and to let people understand about our plight.”
He clutched his electric “tambo guitar”, which many believe is the secret to his success, as he spoke.
He invented it as a hybrid instrument, combining the neck and guitar of a guitar with a traditional tambour.
Noori began his musical career at 18 years old in Port Sudan, capital of Red Sea state. This was during the early years under Bashir’s rule.
The Beja people felt abandoned and, like other communities in the country, were exterminated by the Islamist government.
mainly Christian and animist region in 2011, summarized the attitude.
Bashir, who was the leader of the secessionist movement in South Sudan’s He stated that Sudan without the south could become a country with only one identity, namely Arab and Islam.
Bashir’s almost three-decade-long rule saw the Beja’s language, Bidhaawyet, and their culture being suppressed.
Noori explains that “In the past, we didn’t have the access to the platforms now available to perform, and only Arabic music was permitted.”
“We were told we didn’t want songs or music in non-Arabic languages. They used to tell us at festials that our language was not understandable.
As elsewhere in Sudan, the Red Sea region has seen armed opposition groups. There have been deadly clashes between communities in Kassala state, to the south. Some suspect that violence was orchestrated to prevent a united opposition.
Noori said, “I also play an important role in stopping the conflict between tribals in eastern Sudan by playing my music.”
Beja community leaders are arguing that they should have a say in how the state is run. They claim that the post-Bashir transitional government did not give them the right to do so, as did the junta which took power just a little over a year ago.
To press their demands, the Beja organized crippling protests at Port Sudan’s busy port, where oil is exported.
They are also upset about plans to build a new port in partnership with the United Arab Emirates, 200km (125miles) north of Port Sudan. This would result in Beja people being forced from their land.
Beja community leaders announced that they had lost patience in negotiations with Khartoum on the future for their region. They also announced they would be setting up their own provincial government.
Noori, who is interested in promoting understanding, founded his band, Dorpa, which means “mountains”, with musicians from marginalised communities in 2006.
One is Mohammed Bilal, a conga player from the Blue Nile State’s non-Arab Angsana Community. He understands Noori’s passion.
The drummer stated that “people don’t know much” about the Beja people and their long history.
“I believe that what they are doing now will let them know, will bring some illumination to them… Their area is just too poor despite having so many resources.