First published in Songlines Magazine issue 143, December 2018.
Two Niles to Sing a Melody: The Violins & Synths of Sudan
Ostinato Records (2CD, 96 mins)
They dipped their toe into vintage Sudanese music with an album by Abu Obaida Hassan a few months ago; now Ostinato Records are taking a deep dive into that fertile ocean with this double album. This time they’re exploring the music of Khartoum, the capital city at the confluence of the Niles. The rivers are key to Sudan’s unique musical heritage, bringing in influences from North, Central and East Africa to give it a special swing.
The tracks on this compilation span from the 1970s to the 90s, and it’s interesting to hear the changes in style as time goes on. As the title suggests, there is a bunch of violins and a bunch of synths. The trend moves from one to the other over time, the pure disco of the massed violins and wah-guitars slowly making way for full-on synthscapes that really get the heart racing.
All the tracks here have been digitised from cassettes, so the audio quality is understandably varied, which can either be endearing or sonically troubling, depending on your ear. But as with most compilations of this sort, the sheer musical quality is excellent throughout – a wobbly track or two is a fair trade for a wonderful musical journey.