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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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