Muslims & Christians

21/09/18Habibi Funk Takes A Closer Look At The Sudanese Jazz Scene & Kamal Keita

Following our recent recommendation of Berlin-based reissue label Habibi Funk's latest mix, we checked the imprint's Bandcamp page only to find ourselves drawn to yet another release, entitled "Muslims & Christians". And the story goes a little something like this: 

While taking a closer look at the Sudanese jazz scene and the artist Sharhabeel Ahmed in particular, label head Jannis Stürtz began to dig deeper and eventually decided to fly to Sudan to further investigate and learn about the local music scene in the '70s. As he recalls, Kamal Keila was a name that popped up, an artist "coined the James Brown or Fela Kuti of Sudan." 

With the help of local IT expert Yassir Awad, who also happens to run a music blog covering Sudanese jazz bands, Jannis was able to arrange a meeting with Kamal on the outskirts of Khartoum and spend an afternoon in the latter's home. As it turned out, Kamal had never released a record on vinyl nor on cassette, but still had two tapes from sessions recorded for Sudanese radio. 

"In Sudan the radio stations were not allowed to play the recordings produced by music labels on air, therefore they had their own studios and invited musicians to record music for their program. In most cases the musicians would not receive a copy of the recordings out of fear that they would release the music themselves."

Though the two five-track tapes Kamal was able to dig up seemed to be in a terrible state, they actually played well. One tape contained tracks with English lyrics, the other was in Arabic. 

"Musically you can hear the influence of neighbouring Ethiopia much more than on other Sudanese recordings of the time, as well as references to Fela and American funk and soul. Kamal's lyrics, at least when he sings in English, which indicates more freedom from censorship, are very political. A brave statement in the political climate of Sudan of the last decades, preaching for the unity of Sudan, peace between Muslims and Christians and singing the blues about the fate of war orphans called 'Shmasha'," Jannis explains. 

Now released for the very first time on Habibi Funk, these two radio sessions dating back to 1992 are the very first in a series covering the Sudanese jazz scene and another invaluable document, saved from obscurity. You can buy/stream the entire release here. Enjoy!

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom