Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sudanese youth arm themselves with art to bring change

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Sudan Eyez: Fight the Cause , a mix-tape that includes 14 tracks by different Sudanese musicians and poets couldn't have been produced at a more perfect time. While fight the cause was being widely circulated on Facebook and downloaded for free, a wave of political awareness was spreading amongst Sudanese youth.

Young men and women were putting Safia Ishaq, an activist who was gang-rapped by Sudanese security forces as their display picture and many were joining groups calling for changes a la Tunisia and Egypt. In its introduction, the mix-tape emphasizes that the battle for the Sudanese cause has been ongoing for 21 years and the movement towards change started on January the 30th 2011 was "inspired by the Egyptian and Tunisian youth."

By asking the listeners to make this CD the soundtrack of the 2011 Sudanese revolution, the artists are actively trying to mobilize their listeners to become active and involved in the movement. The mix tape begins with a 1958 recording broadcasted from Omdurman Radio which was called "This is Omdurman" at the time.

The recording was two years after Sudan's independence from Great Britain and the year of its first military coup. Music from old Sudanese songs is sampled and integrated into a number of tracks. It covers different genres from hip-hop by US-based Sudanese rapper and poet, Selma-I and Khartoum-based rappers, ReZOULution to Reggae beats by Mao and R n B by Dubai-based Sudanese artist, Mo'awia known as Nile. Featured artists easily alternate between English and Arabic and insert cultural references such as referring to the government as Kozes, a cup made of metal used for drinking water in Sudan.
The artists began working on the CD after the January 30 protests and the whole idea was instigated by the arrest of rapper, blogger, activist and poet Ahmad Mahmoud also known as DZA the Dissenter. 70 protesters were arrested on the 30th of January protest. Two days later, Mahmoud was arrested as he took part in a peaceful protest in Khartoum North.

Hashim , the brain behind the idea said that the aim was to produce a mixtape “ that is going to inspire the Sudanese youth so they can’t let us down when it’s the right time to make some changes,”

Picking the contributors wasn’t a challenge for Hashim, he already had a few musicians in mind. He made sure to pick the tracks that match the concept of the album. He told me in an interview over Facebook that he knew that the musicians wouldn’t mind joining such an album even if it is going to bring them problems.

The tracks were already recorded, Hisham just had to pick the most suitable ones. He started working on the mixtape and was planning to dedicate it to Ahmad Mahmoud, his fellow musician and good friend. Fortunately, he was released twelve long days later.
In the meantime, the youth movements in Sudan decided that 21st of March was a day of mass protests. The mixtape had to be finished and distributed beforehand.

“I really wanted that album to spread awareness so I had to publish it unfinished, after all, it took me about one month to collect the pieces,” he stated.

The mixtape was distributed online. Many put a link to it on their Facebook page. I personally stumbled upon the mixtape after a friend of mine posted a link to it on Facebook. When I asked Hashim if they used the internet only for distributing the mixtape, he quoted the poet and musician, Gil Scott-Heron and told me that “the revolution will not be televised,”
Reminiscent of the role of Facebook and twitter in Tunisia and Egypt, he added that the revolution is not televised, but it is internized,”

G. AbuNafeesa, a medical doctor found herself part of the artistic movement calling for change when she read about what happened to Safia Ishaq, a 25 year old artist affiliated with Girfna, a two-year old youth movement calling for change. Ishaq was arrested on 13 February 2011 by the police for her involvement in the January 30 movement. Not long after she was released, she spoke out about her arrest , beating and subsequent gang-rape by three members of Sudan’s security service in a video testimony broadcasted on youtube.
AbuNafeesa was heartbroken and angry by the oppression of women in Sudan and the ongoing violence against civilians and decided to use her pen to write the story of the Sudanese struggle.
In her piece, the quality of equality, performed at the Women’s Week at Ahfad University for Women in Sudan, she spoke of Ishaq when she said
“You asked for the quality of your equality, And gained nothing but cold depravity…of ones who crowned your head with fear
when they unwrapped your hijab, and bound your hands -
because you chose to make a stand!”

AbuNafeesa has used Ishaq’s picture as her facebook display picture for nearly 2 months now.

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