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.
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.