The Sudanese revolution, which began in December 2018, with a new government in place by August 2019, ignited many other parallel revolutions. 

The Sudanese revolution, which began in December 2018, with a new government in place by August 2019, ignited many other parallel revolutions. Many have witnessed the art movement that took place during and after the revolution. However, parallel, a music movement or revolution was taking place, lyrically speaking of injustice and political oppression in Sudan.

Bringing about political and social change, protest songs provide a unique opportunity to rhythmically reflect the voice of protesters to a wider audience. From the US to the Arab world, protest songs are powerful agents for free speech and creative expression.

Sudan’s protest songs infuse elements of Sudanese or Arabic rap with modern hip hop and rap music as well as reggae and African-influenced rhythm. As Arabic is the language of Sudan, most of the recent protest songs are in the colloquial Sudanese Arabic dialect.

American-Sudanese rapper Ayman Mao’s Dam or Blood became the song of 2019 revolution although it was originally released in 2016. The song is directed towards the former Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir and his regime, addressing the corruption that has led to bloodshed, singing ‘How much did they buy you for? So that you can turn it into blood?’. The song was re-released in 2019 with an official music video. A pioneer of Sudanese reggae – infusing elements of reggae with Sudanese music – Ayman Mao is affiliated with Sudanese entertainment company NasJota who, throughout the years, have released several protest anthems from ‘La Dictatorship’ (No to Dictatorship) in June 2012 to ‘Tasgot Bas’ (Just Fall) in March 2019.

Sudanese rapper A.G brought out one of the most powerful protest songs during the 2019 revolution with the politically-charged ‘Sudan Bidon Kizan’ (Sudan Without Kizan), which he released in May 2019. Kizan is the word Sudanese people use to describe Al Bashir and his regime, the dismantled National Congress Party (NCP). A.G speaks of a Sudan without corruption, war, tribalism, poverty and much more, and describes a new and more progressive Sudan. However, his first protest song was 3askar or Military, which he released in January 2019, speaking of the pain, oppression and depression the military regime of Al Bashir has inflicted on its people.

Saudi-based Sudanese musician Ahmed Amin released ‘Madaniya, Huriya wa Salama’ (Civil, Freedom & Peace) in June 2019, which quickly became one of the revolution’s most popular protest songs. The emotive song reflects on the many lives that were lost during the revolution. Earlier, in March 2019, Amin released a short yet poignant protest song called ‘Rasastain’ (Two Bullets), a song reflecting on a martyr singing to his mother, ‘We were killed by two bullets – a bullet for my country and a bullet for you’.

One of the first to release a protest song when the Sudanese revolution ignited on 18 December 2018 was Qatar-based Sudanese musician and producer Sammany Hajo. He released a beat called ‘Sudan Revolts‘ on 28 December 2018, which samples Malik Mukhtar’s cover of the late Mohammed Wardi’s powerful protest song, ‘Ya Sha’b Al Lahabar Thawretak’ (O People, Your Revolution Has Ignited) with soundbites of news stories, Al Bashir’s speeches, and popular protest chants that took place during the revolution. Hajo then released another protest song, ‘Matalib’ (Demands), in the summer of 2019, which garnered him a feature on the much-acclaimed COLORS YouTube channel. He shared a poignant rendition of ‘Matalib’, inspired by protesters saying, ‘I will not leave. I have demands’ – reflecting the voices of millions of protesters who orchestrated a mass sit-in on 6 April 2019 at the headquarters of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in Khartoum.

There are several other Sudanese protest songs, which were inspired by the recent revolution. However, Sudanese protest songs have long existed in Sudan as early as the 1960s with songs such as Ibrahim Awad’s ‘Al Thawra Shea’ar’ (Revolution is a Slogan) and Osman Hussain’s ‘3irees Dam’ (Blood Wedding) and Salah Mustafa’s ‘Anasheed Thawrat October’ (The Anthem of October 21st), impacting and influencing political and social aspects of life. Nevertheless, Sudan’s most recent and third revolution inspired a new and rich wave of protest songs that infused Western music elements with Sudanese music to reach a wider audience – those inside and outside of Sudan. In a matter of a year, Sudan’s library of protest songs increased, adding to the country’s already rich catalogue of protest songs. Today’s and tomorrow’s generation will be able to reflect on and connect with a revolution that has been lyrically documented.

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