Reports: Music in Sudan
In 1992 the controllers of Radio Juba wiped its unique tapes of the celebrated Southern Sudanese singer Yousif Fataki. It's an apt demonstration of the government's attitude to the south, to erase a cultural artefact to make way for its own propaganda. And although South Sudan, like the Nuba Mountains, creates plenty of music, there are fewer opportunities to hear it now than in recent decades.
Back in the 1960s, a Southern Sudanese musician and folklorist - Dr William Remzy - was working at the University of Khartoum. In the 1970s and 80s, while there was peace, the southern capital Juba had nightlife: groups like the Skylarks and Rejaf Jazz, and venues like DeeDee's Disco, taking their inspiration from Kampala and Nairobi. All are long gone, dispersed by war, although a couple of Skylarks were sighted gigging in Uganda in 1998.
Nowadays the best chance to hear Southern Sudanese music may be in church, possibly in the refugee camps in northern Uganda, or among the rebel soldiers. Sometimes the participants are the same: I met a priest, a dead ringer for Spike Lee, training a chapel choir consisting of both SPLA fighters and seminarians in Eastern Equatoria.
The Dinka tribe used to hymn their fabulous long-horned cattle, and pogo like the born basketball players they are. Zande folk music is as playful as their folk tales, which feature a trickster like the Jamaicans' Anansie or Brer Rabbit of the US Deep South. Nowadays the peoples of south Sudan have an ever-growing repertoire of new songs about war and liberation, some of which were captured on a 1997 recording that sounds worlds away from the sleek orchestras of Khartoum.