Reports: Music in Sudan

The lute and the lyre 
The lyric songs of northern Sudan were originally played on the tambour, or lyre, using pentatonic scales, and are quite distinct from the Arabian maqam structures. When the far more sophisticated oud or lute was introduced from across the Red Sea, Sudanese players developed a style of plucking and striking the strings of the oud from the technique they had used on the lyre.

Some of the more basic lyre-players scrub jerkily across the splayed strings, a sort of acoustic grunge to western ears, while others extract a plaintive quality. The lyre is also common in south Sudan, where these days the instrument is just as likely to be made from a hub-cap or a land-mine casing as from the gourds of old.

 Plenty of horns
Odd and tantalising styles of horn playing crop up in unexpected places - traditional Nigerian Fellata and Blue Nile Berta, post-imperial quasi-military, James Brown funky, smooth makossa . Some resemble wounded cows, and take a while to get used to; some are just badly rehearsed. Others are immediately uplifting. A generation ago it was Juma'a Jabir, who once taught in the Army Music Section and later became a valued session player, who pioneered the contemporary use of horns. These days the best-known - at least among outside collectors - is Hamid Osman.

The players