Noori & His Dorpa Band
Beja Power! Electric Soul and Brass from Sudan’s Red Sea Coast
Sudan is a country that has been in turmoil for decades. The world has been focused on the fighting between North and South and the coups and attempted coups that followed. While all that was on the world’s TV screens, another struggle for recognition and rights has been simmering in Eastern Sudan in the Red Sea port cities. The Beja people live in an area rich in gold and minerals, which they see extracted and sent off to the rest of the world. When the Beja people said they should benefit from this wealth, the Sudanese government cracked down and launched a campaign against the Beja language, music, and arts.
Noori is a Beja musician from Port Sudan who believes Beja music has the power to save his people. When Noori was a teenager, he found the neck of a guitar in a junkyard. When his father gave him a traditional harp-like instrument called a tambour, he joined the guitar neck to the tambour to create his own unique instrument, the electric tambour-guitar.
Beja Power! is Noori’s electrified take on six traditional songs. To my ears, these are the sounds of the oasis and crossroad. Noori’s tambour-guitar has Toareg dust in its frets. “Qwal” has the slowly loping rise and fall of Ethiopian jazz masters. Overall, the Beja sound is light and hypnotic and these songs float aloft like a refreshing breeze on a sweltering summer day. This beautiful music comes from an area definitely not know for beauty, so holding onto and preserving these sounds is a radical act of resistance.