A Song For PeaceBy Iquo B. Essien, The AFRican Blogger

A Song For Peace
By Iquo B. Essien, The AFRican Blogger

Published on Tue, Jul 31 2007 by Iquo Essien
The Sudanese Music and Dance Festival, directed by Yousif El Moseley, at Central Park Summerstage was on point. I'm convinced that Summerstage is one of the few venues in the world within which East and West can truly co-exist. It was wonderful to see so many young and old, urban chic and traditional folks gathered for the concert featuring a dozen or so of Sudan's most beloved musicians. My favorite was the drummer who wore a T-shirt that read: Barack Obama is my Homeboy.

Omar Bannaga

Hadi Ahmed

The Nile Music Orchestra

Many of the performers are now expatriates, partly because sharia law has severely restricted music in Sudan. The exuberance with which they sang and danced was a testament to the creativity and joy that has been repressed over the years.

My favorite performers had to be Al Balabil, or The Nightingales -- two dynamic, spirited, and powerful sisters beating their tars and singing at the top of their lungs. Halfway through their set, they got so in to the music that their veils came off. It was beautiful to see Muslim women dancing onstage with their heads uncovered as they cannot do back home! It had me puffing out my chest and stamping my feet.

Al Balabil

I'm certainly not up on my Sudanese music, but I definitely wanted to hear more of Atif Anees, Ahmed Bass, and the legendary Omar Ihsas from Darfur.

Speaking of which. The concert was about way more than music and dance with banners throughout the audience proclaiming "Down with El Basher Government" and "We will never forget our martyrs in Darfur, Kajbar and Port Sudan."

It reminded me of a talk I attended at the Schomburg Center, hosted by Women In Islam, featuring UN officials and representatives from the Save Darfur Coalition speaking about Sudanese officials being sent to international criminal court.

At the time, in January, already 500,000 Darfuris had been killed, with 3 million displaced and 300,000 having crossed into Eastern Chad. Abdelbagy Abushanab, President of the Newark-based Darfur Rehabilitation Project, said that 7 of the 11 UN Security Resolutions on Darfur had not seen the light. A UN official added that the real issue is preventing human rights violations in civil war, noting that the Biafran Civil War claimed the lives of one million Nigerian civilians back in the day.

I am not sure how possible or probable it is to prevent violations in furtherance of an act that is, by its very definition, inhumane. I believe that war equals death. And destruction. And rape. It robs us all of our humanity, no matter if we participate directly in the fighting or not; I think it's irrational to believe otherwise.

In the words of Omar Ihsas, "We are all here for our homeland. For peace. Let's live together."


The AFRican Blogger

Photo credit: Elshafei Dafalla (Omar Bannaga and Hadi Ahmed)

Photo credit: Banning Eyre (Omar Bannaga & Dancers, The Nile Music Orchestra, Omar Ihsas)

Photo credit: Nicholas Roberts for The New York Times (Al Balabil & Singers)


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