Politics: The New Language of Sudanese Music?

Al Jazeera English’s Poster of Sudan’s Protests

They sing to the president. They sing to stop his prolonged dictatorship. They sing for unity, change and freedom of their people and land.

“Mr. President, won’t you tell me why do I have to put up with all the lies? Promises you made for a better life,” says Nile, a Sudanese hip hop and R&B singer, song writer and music producer, in his latest song, “Mr. President”. Nile is not alone; NasJota, who are a group of Arab and Sudanese Hip Hop artists, released their newest song, “LA Dictatorship”, in June 2012, calling for change in Sudan. “LA Dictatorship” is in both Arabic and English, written in a form of code-switching. “Yes for love and equality. Say NO to cruelty…Until when we be living like a جبنة
جوة حلته لايك سجنه
we never speak the truth cause لسانه
لسانه هو مربوط مافي امانه
امانه هي مدسوسه في كورنه
والكورنه موجودة في قلبنا
قلبنا من القرف قال كفايه
كفايه من الظلم دي الحكايه,” says the lyrics of “LA Dictatorship” (You can find the full lyrics under LA Dictatorship’s music video on YouTube).

This is the first time Sudanese hip hop and R&B artists use music as an expression of their political views in the English language. Mohamed Wardi, a Nubian Sudanese singer who died recently in February 2012, is probably one of the very few Arabic-singing artists who addressed his political views and called for revolution in his music. Consequently, he was jailed. After his release, he went to Egypt in 1989 for voluntary exile but returned to Sudan in 2003.

Southern Sudanese musicians, however, are not new in this business. Musicians of  South Sudan have always used music to portray their political views whether in Arabic, English or in any of their tribal languages. Emmanuel Jal, a Southern Sudanese Hip Hop artist and peace activist, is one example who uses his music to promote peace in Sudan.

This new trend Nile and NasJota introduced is very timely with the current protests in Sudan, which university students triggered on June 16 due to the planned government cuts to fuel subsidies and other spending. Sudan’s economy weakened since South Sudan seceded last July, taking with it three-quarters of Sudan’s oil production. Demonstrations broke out in several places in Khartoum and elsewhere as hundreds of Sudanese set fire to tires and trees, threw stones, and blocked roads especially as police tried to end the demonstrations. Al Jazeera, BBC News and other news agencies have referred to the protests as part of of the Arab Spring, a new concept in the region. However, regardless of the current protests, it is important to state that the people of Sudan have succeeded in overthrowing the governments twice in the last 50 years.

Although Nile and NasJota do not reside in Sudan, they still play a role in the protests by producing revolutionary music. Nile is a Sudanese Soul, Hip Hop and R&B singer, song writer and music producer based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Born Moawia Ahmed Khalid, he wrote and produced over 40 songs most of which are romantic. “Mr. President” is his first politically-motivated song. NasJota, however, have long produced and collaborated in making protest-like songs. The label’s music is inclusive of other African and Middle Eastern people, including non-Sudanese artists and music. Located in the United States, NasJota claims to be the first Arabic and Sudanese record label, TV and radio station.

The songs “Mr. President” and “LA Dictatorship” have gained thousands of views on YouTube. With Sudan’s current political and economical climate and increasing protests, more people might will listen to these songs and those similar to them. More Sudanese R&B and hip hop artists might follow this new trend especially if the demonstrations in Sudan intensify. “Mr. President” and “LA Dictatorship” may not physically contribute to the demonstrations, but at least the songs give the Sudanese people, especially those living abroad, a sense of motivation and reconstruction.

Listen to Nile’s latest song, “Mr. President”:

Listen to Nas Jota’s latest song, “La Dictatorship”: 

You may also visit Nas Jota’s website at http://www.nasjota.com/

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2 thoughts on “Politics: The New Language of Sudanese Music?

  1. This music reflects an evolution in today’s Sudanese Youth’s art of expression. Bound by these artist’s lives abroad, their art is influenced by modern genres. A long journey from Mohamed Wardi’s style, it re-iterates the ongoing common theme – the struggle of the avreage Sudanese Citizen’s till today due to the opression of the successive regimes.

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