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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa

THE MUSIC OF SUDAN

By Bruce Miller
Published September 22, 2005

Rough Guides

THE MUSIC OF THE SAHARA
Rough Guides

Sudan is the largest country in Africa and as such it has cultural connections to Nubian Upper Egypt, the Middle East as well as its African neighbors east and south. Musically, Sudan is or has been the home of Yemen-influenced bands and Krar-playing ballad singers of Port Sudan and, near the border of Ethiopia, Wazza trumpet groups immersed in seductive African groove not influenced one iota by the religious fundamentalists who have put parts of the country on the map, thanks to the current genocide in Darfur. As a result, the good people at Rough Guide have had their hands full with this collection. Featuring everything from a child soldier turned rap star to two driving examples of women’s Zar ceremonial drumming, a practice pre-dating Islam and currently threatened by the military regime, it seems as if all of Africa is represented. Perhaps the disc’s highlight is elder statesman Mohammed Wardi’s ecstatic live performance of “Azibni” from 1994. Recorded in neighboring Addis Ababa, Wardi’s infectious Nubian performance, thanks in part to the energy of the crowd, scales music’s very soul. From Mauritania to Libya, the Western Sahara to Timbuktu, the Sahara collection smolders like a desert sunset in Erfoud. High points include Chet Fewt’s Gnawa-like “Tadzi-Out,” guaranteed to induce trance, and the amplified Dune Metal of Nayim Alal’s “Bleida.” Elsewhere, the curtain draping present-day Algeria gets lifted long enough to feature improvisational poet-singer Sahraoui Bachir, backed by a gaspa (desert flute) player for a meter-less meditation as forlorn and windswept as the Sahara itself.