With Sudan’s political and economical instability, at least one million Sudanese have left their country in search of a new home. Many have managed to succeed in their careers in ways they wouldn’t have in Sudan, specifically in the music industry.
In the US, many originally Sudanese musicians have found international success. Natasja Saad, Reema Major and Oddisse are some of the most successful Sudanese musicians in the west. Besides in the west, there are examples of successful Sudanese musicians in the Middle East. A recent example is UAE-based Sudanese singer, Nile, who’s currently a contestant on The Voice Ahla Sawt.
From Sudan to Egypt then finally to the US, Mosno Al-Moseeki, a 34-year-old Sudanese-American singer and songwriter, is an up and coming musician in the US. He has had songs released in US, Europe and Africa, and has opened up for Grammy-nominated artist Mathew Santos, award-winning group Carbon Leaf, and legendary band Rusted Root. His song, No Kingdom, is featured in the short Sudanese-American film Faisal Goes West, which premiered in Short Film Festivals around the world, including London, France, Texas and Morocco. It also opened the first Sudan Independent Film Festival in Khartoum on January 2014.
Mosno is releasing his first music album, NOVELLA: A Love Letter To Culture Clash. “This is a concept album based on my personal experience for migrating from Sudan to Baltimore. The whole album is a fairy tale, with mythical creatures, and magical quests. I wanted the album to flow like a story book, and I wanted the listeners to either relate to it, or simply enjoy the journey. Which is why I wrote it with heavy layers of metaphors, that way the listener can interpret it which ever way they please,” he said. To launch this album, Mosno was raising money to finish the very last steps of the project. His Pledge Music Campaign ended on 24 February 2014. NOVELLA is a 24-Track concept album, 3 years in the making, based on his migration from Sudan to Baltimore. It features several artist and musicians who many are immigrants themselves, using a variety of exotic instruments including the oud, harp, piano, cello, djembe and French horn to name a few. Mosno is now taking pre-orders of his new album, NOVELLA, on his website.
Though NOVELLA is Mosno’s first full length album, he has produced two previous short albums, which are also known as EPs. The first one was called The Low-Tech EP. “Back in 2008, I basically got together with my brother on the weekends and we created a little 5 song album for me to take with me on the road as I was going on my soul searching trip to be able to give the people I meet something to remember me by,” he explained. Mosno’s second album The Un-Genre EP was released in 2010. “When I had decided in 2009 that I wanted to hit the music scene, I needed to have a fresh new product to do it with. So I called upon my talented friends, and recorded a six-song album featuring some of my friend’s favorite original songs,” he said.
Inspiration of NOVELLA
The album features several of my fellow talented artists, who each play the role of a particular character in the story. For example, my good friend K. Koan is The Narrator who is guiding you through this journey. My good friend Joe Scala is The Bard who is the story teller. My dear friend Sahffi Lynne is Ocean Girl, who is one of the main characters in the story and symbolizes the west. And I play Desert Boy who is taking this journey to discover his calling.
Since the album is about migration, I am very delighted to say, that there are several immigrant artist on this album with me, from all around the world. Like my dear friends, Khaled Dajani from Palestine, Spyros Koliavasilis from Greece, Teporah from Armenia, and Seeno Merobsho from Tajikistan just to name a few. Music really does bring our world together.
Being a Sudanese artist in the US
Being a Sudanese artist is just as hard as being a US artist, but I believe that being Sudanese is actually more of an advantage. The people in the US crave culture, which is why there are so many festivals and celebrations of other cultures in this country, its quite beautiful. One of challenge is being a Sudanese artist, as I’ve mentioned there is a lot of embedded stereotypes of immigrant artist, so when I would apply to perform at a particular event and they see ‘Sudanese’ they automatically think anti-political songs, and may not even give me a chance. But I refuse to not say that I’m Sudanese, because I’m determined to break that wall, and I want to do it honorably, un-apologetically, and also kindly.
A passion for music
I’ve been playing music since I was a young boy in Sudan, I started off playing on my little white Casio keyboard after I watched Captain Majid and Grandizer. In 2000, I had started songwriting, but the only audience was my bedroom, gradually I started performing in public at School talent shows, and local Open Mic events. Music has always been there for me, and once I found that I have a safe and creative outlet through it, I was in the clouds. Once I saw that people responded positively to my music at these events that I performed, that’s when I realized I had found my calling. So after I graduated from college at the end of 2008, I took a little soul searching trip with a dear of mind who is also a musician. And in 2009, I decided that music was the career for me, and I’ve been working towards it ever since.
About the music
Four years ago, I decided on a mission, and my mission was to use music to help me be a bridge between my Eastern and Western cultures, and to break the stereotyped images of Sudan and immigrants in general. There are many images that are implanted in music, for example, almost all immigrant artist sing primarily of the political injustice in their country, and how they have escaped. So I decided to consciously not do an album of that sorts, and I have been able to successfully establish the image of being a very poetic songwriter. I would sing about love, happiness, sorrow, all the emotions everyone can relate to, and I’m happy to say that it worked.
Due to my poetic style of writing, I was approached a couple of years ago by a Sudanese supporter who asked me to write a song for the Sudan Revolts protest, I was hesitant and worried that a “revolution” song might not work since my style was not aggressive. But I’m happy to say I was able to find a balance to write the song “System Down” which he was very pleased with.
I define myself with one sentence “I am a prototype, not a stereotype”. I have been using that sentence for years, and it helps me accept that fact that it is ok to not “fit in”.
My music falls primarily under the singer/songwriter umbrella, mainly due to me writing and singing my own songs, but I also identify it as “Desert Eclectic” because I enjoy listening to all kinds of music, and enjoy merging then together when I can.
Behind the stage name
Mosno Al-Moseeki is the stage name Mosno goes by. Mosno stands for ‘Most Noble’, which is the translation of his original Arabic name, Ashraf. Al-Moseeki is the Arabic word for ‘The Musician’ or ‘The Musical’.