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Abu Obaida Hassan, age 19. Photo: Ostinato Records.

The Mystery of Sudan's Tambour Master, Abu Obaida Hassan

Ostinato Records founder Vik Sohonie shares details on this upcoming release from 1970s & '80s Sudan.

Abu Obaida Hassan and the wonders of his five-string tambour remained largely a mystery.

In the early 2000s, a prominent Sudanese newspaper declared him dead. Internet forums confirmed his passing. Many in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, said he had indeed died. But rumors that he was still alive persisted.

What was always certain was Abu Obaida Hassan's mercurial talent. His command of a modified tambour, backed by a chorus and two drummers, unleashed swirling melodies alongside complex Nubian rhythms and hypnotic Sudanese call and response. His band's roster constantly changed, but he remained at the helm, playing for sold out shows in cities across the country and capturing the dance floors and youth of 1970s and '80s Sudan.

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Khojaly Osman performs in Omdurman, 1970s. Photo Courtesy of Shihab Osman.

You Need to Hear This Mixtape of Vintage, Golden Era Sudanese Music

Ostinato Records founder Vik Sohonie shares details on his upcoming compilation of sounds from Khartoum and Omdurman.

In a meeting with Djibouti's minister of culture in late 2016, we discussed Somali and Afar music from his country. The conversation gradually grew to East African music culture at large and when I asked if he enjoyed the music of Mohamed Wardi, a Sudanese legend, he placed his phone down, adjusted his glasses, put his hands into the heavens and said "Wardi!," as if to imply that we mere mortals have no business speaking so casually about a singer, composer, poet, and activist deified across much of Africa and the Arabic speaking world.

Such is the reputation of Sudanese music, particularly in East Africa and what is often referred to as the "Sudanic Belt," a cultural zone that stretches from Sudan all the way west to Mauritania, covering much of the Sahara and the Sahel, lands where Sudanese artists are household names and Sudanese poems are regularly used as lyrics to produce the latest hits. Sudan is a land of poets. When protesters take to the streets of the capital, they read poems.

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The Lost Songs From Somalia's Golden Age of Music Are Compiled In This New Mix

Get transported to 1970s & 1980s Mogadishu in this mixtape of newly rescued songs from Somalia's golden age of music, put together by Ostinato Records.

Vik Sohonie, founder of Ostinato Records, gives us the background on his mixtape 'Somali Sounds from Mogadishu to Djibouti.'

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