The series of letters by African journalists features some rhythms and a political agenda for Sudan’s Red Sea state.
Noureddine atta Al-Mawla jabar’s latest album, Beja Power! has been called the soundtrack of Sudan’s recent revolution.
However, Noori, a musician better known by his stagename, isn’t content with his electrifying sound being a part of the historical record of 2019, when Omar al-Bashir, the long-serving President, was ousted following mass protests.
Ostinato Records, a New York-based record label, released the album internationally. It is a continuation for his Muslim nomadic resistance to successive Sudanese regimes.
The Beja are a people from eastern Sudan who live between the mountains and Red Sea Coast. It is a region rich in gold and other resources, but which has very little to show it.
As he sat in Omdurman on the west bank, the 47-year-old said, “Through my music, I would like to reflect our culture and let people know about our plight.” Omdurman is the twin city of Khartoum and Sudan’s capital.
As he spoke, his electric “tamboguitar” was what many consider the key to his success.
It’s a hybrid instrument that he invented, which combines the neck of a guitar and a traditional four stringed tambour.
Noori began his musical career in Port Sudan at the age 18 during Bashir’s early years.
It was a time when Beja people felt neglected and, like many other communities in country, it was also smashed by the Islamist government.
Bashir summarized it in his 2011 declaration of independence from the predominantly Christian and animist South Sudan.
He said that Sudan, without the South, could be a country of one identity – Arab – and one religion – Islam.
Bashir’s three-decade-long rule over the Bejas saw their language (Bidhaawyet) and culture being suppressed.
Noori says, “In the past we didn’t have access the platforms that are now available for performing, Arabic music was prohibited.”
“We were told by them that music and songs not in Arabic language are unacceptable. Some festival goers used to tell me that my language wasn’t understood.
Like elsewhere in Sudan the Red Sea region has been home to armed opposition groups. However, there have been deadly clashes in the Red Sea with Kassala states to its south. This violence is some suspect to be orchestrated to stop a united opposition.
Noori stated, “I also play my part in stopping the tribal conflict in eastern Sudan,” by playing my songs.
Beja community leaders believe that their main contention is how they want to control the running of their state. This is something that the post-Bashir transitional administration failed to realize, just like the junta that seized power a little more than a year ago.
The Beja started organizing crippling protests at Port Sudan’s bustling port to press their claims.
They are also furious about the plan to build a port, in partnership avec the United Arab Emirates (UAE), 200km (125 mi) north Port Sudan. This would mean that Beja people would be forced from their land.
Beja community leaders stated that they had lost patience at Khartoum in negotiations regarding the future of their region. In November, they announced that they would establish their own provincial government.
Noori, who is passionate about understanding, created his band Dorpa in 2006, with musicians from the marginalized communities.
One is Mohammed Bilal, a conga musician from the Blue Nile state. He is able to understand Noori’s passion.
The drummer explained that people don’t know much about Beja people, despite their long history.
“I believe they will be able to see that we are now doing something, and will help them understand why their region is so poor despite its wealth of resources.