Sudan’s underground musicians turn defiant after uprising

KHARTOUM (AFP) – During the day, Gadoora checks his patients at a clinic near Khartoum, but at night he locks himself in his room rapping songs which echo the sentiments of Sudan’s “revolution”.

“The revolution broke the long-standing wall of fear,” said Gadoora.

“Songs have become much more daring now,” added the doctor, who chose to use his stage name.

A surge of freedom has taken over Sudan’s underground music scene since the army ousted longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in April after months of nationwide protests against his rule.

From rap to afrobeat, musicians living in Sudan and overseas have composed tunes punctuated by some of the protest movement’s most popular slogans.

A logo at Sudanese English-language Capital Radio in Khartoum. – AFP

During Bashir’s ironfisted rule of three decades, Sudanese rappers had been unable to express themselves openly.

Gadoora, who has been composing music since 2006, had often resorted to metaphors to make political insinuations.

“It’s hard to dissociate politics from your daily life,” he told AFP at a busy Khartoum cafe.

“No matter how much you try to escape it, it always finds you.”

Gadoora is particularly influenced by the June 3 crackdown on a protest camp outside Khartoum’s army headquarters that left dozens dead and hundreds wounded.

Days after the carnage he composed Blood – a song that is now online and brings out his feelings of the violent dispersal of the protest.

“The people took to the streets chanting a peaceful slogan looking for freedom but they were greeted by barbaric militias,” Gadoora sang the lyrics in a sober voice.

“Their foreheads are smeared with blood for eternity”.

Protesters accuse the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, which is part of Sudan’s armed forces, for the June 3 bloodshed.

Medics linked to the protesters said at least 128 people have been killed in the crackdown on demonstrators, the majority of them on June 3.

Officials have given a lower death toll of 61 nationwide for that day.

Sudan’s ruling generals insist they did not order the crackdown on the sit-in, where thousands had initially rallied against Bashir before pressing on with calls for civilian rule after the military took over.

Musicians still remember the festive, carnival like atmosphere at the protest camp before the bloodshed.

“The sit-in was a creative hub,” said Ahmad Hikmat, content and programme manager at English-language Capital Radio.

“Music and revolution are just one thing,” said Hikmat, dressed in a traditional Sudanese robe and cap.

Sudanese musicians started producing revolutionary songs around six months ago, he said, following the start of anti-Bashir protests in December.

At a villa housing the popular radio station, a vast collection of vinyl records of singers like Bob Marley and Michael Jackson are neatly lined on shelves.

The voice of Sudan’s uprising was primarily spread on the Internet, which has been largely cut since the crackdown.