Abu Obaida Hassan and the wonders of his 5-string tambour have largely remained a mystery. In the early 2000s, a prominent Sudanese newspaper declared him dead. Internet forums confirmed his passing. Many in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, said he had indeed died. But rumors that he was still alive persisted. What was always certain is Hassan's mercurial talent. His command of a modified tambour, backed by a chorus and two drummers, unleashed swirling melodies alongside complex Nubian rhythms and hypnotic Sudanese call and response. His bands roster constantly changed, but he remained at the helm, playing for sold out shows in cities across the country and capturing the dancefloors and youth of '70s and ‘80s Sudan.
This is a rich, raw example of the human experience with sound from northern Sudan, an ancient part of the world, and the birthplace of civilization. Music like this isn't mastered overnight. The Ostinato team first came across Abu Obaida's recordings in 2011, finding scratchy bits and pieces along the years. They traveled to Sudan in 2016 to find the clues to piece together the puzzle. Through some extensive detective work with their man in Khartoum, Ahmed Easysouti, and a generous dose of good fortune, the label tracked Abu Obaida to the rural outskirts of Omdurman, the old capital just across the White Nile from Khartoum. Age has taken its toll, but he remains full of life and music, ready to jointly curate a selection of his eight best cuts. He has written over 100 songs, but only 30 were recorded.
Abu Obaida Hassan, his music and the musical traditions of the Shaigiya remain alive and kicking. A culmination of a 7-year journey – from first hearing Abu Obaida's distinct sound, found only in Sudan, to finding the man – has produced the first global release of Shaigiya music and is just the beginning of Ostinato's immersion into Sudan, with a full compilation of the lavish musical history of one the most diverse countries in Africa due later in 2018. All brought to you by the Grammy-nominated team behind Sweet As Broken Dates.