A musical meeting of minds

A musical meeting of minds

A musical meeting of minds

Tilal Salih, a British Council Project Delivery Manager working in Khartoum, Sudan, blogs about a remarkable meeting of musical minds in a reborn festival by the banks of the Nile.
 
As new life flowed through the 10th Khartoum International Music Festival after a 13-year hiatus, new life was also flowing through some ancient music thanks to an exhilarating collaboration between two of Sudan’s most talented musicians and the UK’s Sam Lee and Friends.

The collaboration, which took place on the penultimate night of the festival, was a highlight of the week and captured perfectly the spirit of the festival, and the British Council’s contribution to it: forging connections through music that span cultures, languages, borders and even time.

This spirit was present from the earliest planning stages in the festival’s identity, Where the 2 Niles Meet.

Introducing sounds and songs of old English folk played on a wild mix of instruments, Sam Lee and his musical friends electrified the crowd at the Omdurman National Theatre with a beautiful, moving performance. Despite never being heard in Khartoum before, Sam’s songs of history, lost love and hope struck a chord with the Khartoum crowd, and each translated introduction received a roar of recognition and delight.

And yet it was only when Dr Alfateh Hussain and Omer Ihsas and their bands joined Sam and friends on stage that sparks really began to fly. Earlier in the day, these gifted artists met for just three short hours to listen, play and create. Worries that such a short time might not be enough to discover and understand new forms of playing – let alone create for performance that day – were unfounded. The bands quickly heard echoes between the musical forms and ideas of their own traditions, and those of their new band mates.

The performance of this collaboration was nothing short of exhilarating. The rhythms and timbre of Omer Ihsas’ traditional Darfuri folklore singing melded with the rich baritone of Sam Lee, the differences producing a remarkable and complementary sound. And the talent of Dr Alfateh Hussain’s band – and his lightning-quick hands upon the guitar – joined with the harmony of strings, horns and haunting percussion of Sam Lee’s “Friends” to build a style that was driving, loud and exploding with sound, yet never crowded or over the top.

The musicians shared, understood and created something new, spanning cultural or national divides. And the audience on Saturday night was thrilled by new stories of both Britain and Sudan – stories as much about the similarities and connections, as about different cultures and traditions.

At a music festival held where the two rivers meet, it was fitting that a spirit of collaboration – of sharing, learning, connection and creation – prevailed. As Sam Lee and friends both new and old played on Saturday night, barriers of language, history or culture were quickly forgotten and overcome as a new common language of music was spoken and sung.

It was a collaboration that breathed new life into ancient songs as the timeless waters of the Nile flowed by.

Tim Cumming blogs for The Huffington Post from the 10th Khartoum International Music Festival

British Council Focus on Sudan and South Sudan

The Exchange – Episode 3 – Sudan and South Sudan by British Council. Uploaded with Scup

The Exchange: blogs from Sudan and South Sudan
Rosie Goldsmith is a journalist and presenter of the British Council’s international affairs podcast, The Exchange. Rosie travelled through the two new nations of North and South Sudan to report for the British Council on its English Language projects in both countries and show how learning English is helping development.
The Exchange – The long road to Khartoum
The Exchange – On the road in South Sudan, Day 1
The Exchange – On the road in South Sudan, Day 2
The Exchange – On the road in South Sudan, Day 3
The Exchange – On the road in South Sudan, Day 4

See Rosie’s photos from her time in Sudan and South Sudan

South Sudan: Out of Bounds
Tony Calderbank, British Council Country Director in the newly minted Republic of South Sudan, finds that having an office in the corner or a nightclub makes life a lot more interesting.

Sudan: Making music where the 2 Niles meet
Tilal Salih, a British Council Project Delivery Manager working in Khartoum, Sudan, blogs about a remarkable meeting of musical minds in a reborn festival by the banks of the Nile.

Tim Cummins blogs for The Huffington Post from the 10th Khartoum International Music Festival

Audioblog: Active Citizens in Sudan by British Council

Find out more about the British Council’s work in Southern Sudan.