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Money dealers in Omdurman market. Photo: Janto Djassi / Picture Me Different.

In Photos: The Golden Spirit of Khartoum

Ahead of their upcoming compilation, Ostinato Records takes us on a photographic trip through Sudan's beautiful capital.

As we present our latest release, Two Niles to Sing a Melody: The Violins & Synths of Sudan, to celebrate the golden era of Khartoum's gifted musicians, it's worthy to note that we are not merely in the record label business or the music industry, but very much part of the storytelling business, which is largely an image-making enterprise. Far too often, those afforded the privilege to shape the image of countries not always in control of their own narrative abuse that power by recycling tropes that offer little to challenge deeply established narratives or reshape our understanding.


Music is just one component of a nation and culture's image, but Ostinato's philosophy is about showcasing and reimagining images of peoples and places that have long been viewed through a malignant colonial lens or via strategic foreign policy objectives, denying ancient lands, unmistakably sophisticated music cultures, and even just the gentle silt and vibrant color of daily life from their rightful place alongside the very best that humanity has produced or has to offer.

Photo: Janto Djassi / Picture Me Different.

A cab driver smiles during rush hour traffic in Khartoum. (Dec, 2017)

During the making of this compilation, in collaboration with Picture Me Different, an African-run agency in Hamburg, Germany, we have documented the everyday flair of life in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, and the remnants of its once mighty music scene as old legends fight to carry on a beloved legacy. Alongside, the singers featured on our compilation (or their families if they have passed) have provided vintage photos of musical life in Khartoum and the old capital, Omdurman.

Few around the world have the chance to experience Sudan on the ground themselves. So, as curators and image-makers dedicated to decolonizing our sense of sound and sight, we have put together a mini-exhibition of 15 photos to take you deep into the world of Sudan's capital—by no means a reflection of the country as a whole—but a good starting point as we celebrate Sudan's rich tapestry of culture, color, life, and diversity.

Importantly, we are not always offered a perspective on an African country through an African—in this case, Senegalese—photographer's eyes.

It takes two Niles to sing a melody, and create a just image.

News Brief
Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images

Sudan Declares State of Emergency, As Military Dissolves Transitional Government

As the North African country edged closer to democracy, Sudan's military has seized power.

Sudan's military has seized power over the North African country, arresting multiple civilian leaders, including the current Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. The power-sharing, unstable coalition, called the Sovereign Council, was created as a transitional government after the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019, in an attempt to move towards a democratic Sudan.

The Sudanese public has been split in recent weeks as groups protested for a military-run state, while others pushed for a civilian lead, democratic nation. Last week, the Prime Minister vocalized his plans towards a full transition to civilian rule, and his plans to have that body in place by November 17, echoing the voices of thousands of Sudanese demonstrators who showed up in hoards to demand that the promise of Sudan's pro-democracy movement be honored. But on Monday the PM and multiple government ministers and officials were placed under arrest, resulting in Sudan's top general's declaring State of Emergency.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said in a televised statement, "To rectify the revolution's course, we have decided to declare a state of emergency nationwide… dissolve the transitional sovereign council, and dissolve the cabinet." His statement came as soldiers fired live rounds at anti-military protestors, outside of the army headquarters in the capital.

Internet services were cut across the country around dawn and the main roads and bridges into Khartoum shut, before soldiers stormed the headquarters of Sudan's state broadcaster in the capital's twin city of Omdurman, the ministry said. After months of rising tensions in the country, army and paramilitary troops have been deployed across the capital city, Khartoum, with the airports and internet access being shut down. As a result of the coup, hundreds of protestors have taken to the streets, demanding the return of a civilian ruled and the transitional government, the BBC reports.

Demonstrators have spread to a number of Sudanese cities including Atbara, Wad Madani, and Port Sudan, and more are expected to attend the call for action. "We will not leave the streets until the civilian government is back and the transition is back," protest attendee Sawsan Bashir told AFP. While demonstrator Haitham Mohamed says, "We are ready to give our lives for the democratic transition in Sudan."


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