Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 9 June 2008

The al-Farash al-Ha-ir Everlasting Singer

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By Mahgoub El-Tigani

June 7, 2008 — June the 7th is a sad day in Sudan. It might as well be a sad day for lovers of the Sudanese songs and music in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt, Chad, Uganda, Kenya, and the rest of the world. This is a day when ’Uthman Hissain, one of the greatest Sudanese musicians and singers of our time, was buried in the Farouq Cemetery at Khartoum.

Born in a-Sagay, a small village in Northern Sudan, ’Uthman had been deeply influenced by the Shayqiyya-Nubian music. In fact, most of his songs might be played following the rhythm and melodic modes of that art. ’Uthman artistic contributions, however, added enormously to the modern songs of Sudan, as he introduced in new forms of music the wonderful poetry of Mohamed Bashir ’Ateeq and Salah Ahmed Mohamed Salih, as well as unique poetic products by ’Uthman Hissain Bazara’a and al-Sir Doleeb.

Deeply rooted in the Shayqiyya-Nubian ethics, spiritual values, and musical heritage, ’Uthman Hissain, often named the al-Shayqqi, was also influenced by Egyptian, Indian, and Western forms of melodic construction. His musical flavor was rich and diverse, inasmuch as his refined selections of songs were.

Most particularly, ’Uthman’s sophisticated works were strictly addressed to the notions of love in its purest forms: love of character before the body; love of the meanings of patriotism, not of any ruler or government; and love of challenging the sufferings of life to overcome them with hope and determination. As such, his art survived over all authoritative politics or reactionary ideologies, despite enormous pressures by the succeeding dictatorial regimes to incorporate all works of art into their ill-fated, non-aesthetic systems of rule.

Since his first graceful song Harim wasli malik by Mohamed Bashir‘Ateeq in the early 1950s, followed by al-Farash al-Ha-ir [the overwhelmed butterfly] his most innovative work in a time of prevailing Haqeeba classics, closely following the early creative works of Khalil Farah, Mohamed Ahmed Saroar, and Karuma, and the succeeding generation of ‘Ismail ‘Abd al-Mo’een, Yusif ‘Abd al-Hamid, and Ibrahim al-Kashif, ‘Uthman Hissain has been highly reputed for a great number of innovative songs in the arena - all-fulfilling in music, lyrics, and performance.

Since the 1960s throughout the 1980s, up to the present time, millions of the Omdurman Radio listeners together with millions of listeners of Sudanese music in the neighboring radio stations, especially Rukn al-Sudan in Cairo and the BBC Arabic service in London, have been enjoying the ‘Uthman-Bazara’a songs of which the backward rule of the Brotherhood banned the al-Qublatu a-Sakra masterpiece. Still, Bazara’a Hobi, Ana wal-Najm wa al-Masa and the Doleeb songs Mali wa al-Hawa, Galbi Faqrak, and Aw’id-eeni added to many other distinguished works, continued to influence our modern songs.

‘Uthman Hissain lifelong contributions provided a great service to the modern culture of Sudan for they helped to make of our songs a popular enjoyment of life for large populations beyond the borders of Sudan. Like those of ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Yayah, Ibrahim al-Kashif, Hassan ‘Atiya, Ahmed al-Mustafa, al-Taj Mustafa, Sayed Khalifa, Ramadan Hassan, and the other innovative counterparts, his works will continue as they were, pure and sentimental, to play the same role, as long as the finest meanings of love for the human person and the Nation continue to influence the social life.

The history of Sudanese songs will give tribute to the ‘Uthman’s creative formulations of music, as well his gracious introduction of several innovative songs by ‘Ateq, Salah, Bazara’a, and Doleeb whom he adopted from the most part their beautiful lyrics in his songs.

The Sudanese people have always supported their Loved Ones, whether in arts, political stands, or any other patriotic arena. For long decades, however, the State of Sudan provided nothing in any real terms to honor the invaluable works of the Sudanese singers or musicians, not to mention the destructive policies and practices of the NIF/Congress party ruling regime.

The tragic, irresponsible treatment of the great musician of Sudan Bura’yi Mohamed Dafa’-Allah by the ruling junta of the so-called Salvation Revolution is a case in point: instead of offering deserved care to his art and to his family, the Proud Bura’yi had to live on his own meager resources until his death. The same situation was replicated in the case of the Proud ‘Uthman Hissain. May the Almighty Lord rest their souls in eternal peace.

The State negligence of arts and artists is shameful: The human rights of artists, including singers and musicians, should be fully realized such that their works and their families receive the best social insurance, generous remuneration, and national remembrance.

* The author is a sociologist at the Department of Social Work & Sociology in Tennessee State University, Nashville TN, USA. He can be reached at emehawari@hotmail.com



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