Celebrating culture, identity and the Nile
Although I’ve lived in Sudan for the past 15 years, this was one of the few times I felt like Sudan was truly the heart of Africa thanks to the Festival of the Nile. The festival was organized by the British Council Sudan in partnership with Holla (Horn of Africa Leadership and Learning for Action) A program funded by the EU, implemented and co-funded by the British Council Sudan, bringing together youth from Sudan, Ethiopia and South Sudan in capacity building, leadership and community development activities representing the Horn of Africa.
The British Council hosts an annual arts festival in December, usually featuring Hip Hop, Jazz, Reggae and/or R&B artists from the United Kingdom under different themes from year to year. Due to the nature and theme of the festival of the Nile, the British Council decided to feature a British African percussion ensemble “Drum Roots” from Manchester, whom gave Sudanese youth and audiences a liberating experience as they conducted a 4-day African drum workshop accompanied by a 4-day African dance workshop at the wonderful AlGunaid Cultural Center. Young Sudanese men and women attended the African drum and dance workshops which emphasized Malinke traditions of Guinea by masters of the trade. Although it was traditional, it seemed to be very modern. If you look closely enough at traditional African dance, it will be obvious that it carries the roots of many kinds of modern dance.
Historically, Darfur was a vibrant market place and melting pot with cross roads of regional trade and later pilgrimage routes from central, southern, east and west Africa. Darfur today is one of the most culturally rich and diverse regions in Africa, with tribes representing every corner of Africa. In Darfur, there are a variety of African tribes such as the Bantu tribes originally from eastern and central Africa, the Housa and Yuraba tribes from Nigeria, the Fulani tribes of West Africa and hundreds of nomadic tribes including Arab tribes whom have claimed Darfur as their home due to the abundance of natural resources in the region at the time. One of the interesting facts about African history, is that although conflicts always existed, they were not always resolved by violence but rather by cultural competitions of drumming, dancing, singing, story telling etc. and you can see the evidence of this in the Sudanese cultures of the “Hakamat” and the “Hadaiy”. Drums in Africa were not originally used as musical instruments but rather communication tools. To send messages and news to nearby villages, to mark the start of harvest and/or other seasons, to announce death, marriage, rights of passage and other life cycle elements, the drums were always used. Eventually these became rhythms marking different life cycle activities accompanied by specific dress codes, songs and dances.
We hope that the coming generations can learn from the vast knowledge inherited from our ancestors and if we could at least end conflict without the use of violence and bloodshed, that would be a great achievement.
Festival of The Nile featured a number of activities such as the youth initiatives corner, where over 20 youth initiatives were showcased and presented as well as a women’s business corner which showcased entrepreneurial initiatives by Sudanese women, a documentaries zone featuring various documentaries relevant to Sudan and the Horn of Africa and cultural exhibitions representing Sudan, Ethiopia and South Sudan.
The first evening of the festival Friday (Dec 4) featured an interactive theater, poetry from Sudan and Ethiopia and concluded with a performance by “Sounds of The City”.
On Saturday Dec 5, the audiences were blown away by various performances revolving around drumming and Dance. Sudan Drums members whom attended the workshop gave a stunning drumming performance accompanied by Drumroots followed by a mind blowing African dance performance by young men and women from Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Jordan. A stunning dance performance was also presented by the dancers from Ethiopia which reflecting traditional modern Ethiopian dance. Saving the best for last, Drum roots closed the night with Malinke rhythms of Guinea.
Drumroots team members are:
A Djembe Master from Samakofadda in the Wassalon region of North East Guinea, Mory Sako (known by friends and family as Iya), is from the Malinke tribe. Iya started to play with Mamady Doumbouya (the village djembe fola) when he was nine, then became a djembe fola himself, and was in great demand as a performer.
Sens Sanga is from Senegal, and belongs to the Jola tribal group. He was born in Ziguinchor, the capital of Southern Senegal. Sens moved to The Gambia where he trained as a dancer, before eventually returning to the Senegalese artists’ town of Abene, where he formed the group Tamala. Sens moved to the UK in 2005 where he quickly became a Tanante band-member and works alongside Drumroots.
Jamie is an accomplished performer who has been playing West African percussion for over fifteen years with drumming masters in Guinea, Senegal and The Gambia. He has a passion for teaching and has led successful workshops in a variety of settings including prisons; schools for young people with special educational needs and care centers for the elderly. His positive and energetic style inspires people from all ages and backgrounds, from pre-school children to professional musicians.
After graduating from Salford University with a BA in Popular Music and recording, he travelled to Senegal to develop his djembe technique and it was here that he fell in love with the music and culture. He has now completed various study trips to West Africa and also continues to develop his musical skills with other West African musicians in the UK.