Shaden M. Hussain: a Sudanese Star in the Making

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Shaden M. Hussain is one of the rising female artists in the Sudanese music industry. Despite her short tenure on the music scene, Shaden has successfully won the hearts of music lovers in Sudan. Some music critics and experts predict a very powerful future for her, citing her sweet music, vocal versatility and lyric composition. Shaden also believes in music as a powerful art that can promote local culture and values to wider audiences worldwide, regardless of geographical boundaries or linguistic barriers. Elfateh Merghani interviewed her recently in Dubai for PanOrient News and The Seoul Times.

PanOrient News: Can you please introduce yourself to the readers of PanOrient News.

Shaden: My name is Shaden Mohamed Hussain. I am from Sudan. I was born in Elobied City in the Kurdofan region. I attended the primary and high school in Elobied. I moved to Khartoum to pursue my university education, whereby I received my bachelor degree in economics and management. I am also a researcher in the rhythms of Abbala, Baqqara and Ghannama (camel, cow and sheep herders, respectively) across Africa. I am working hard to introduce our beautiful things and heritage to the whole world.

PanOrient News: Your artistic endeavour is sensational and has excited the media. Could you tell us a bit about it?

Shaden: The basic idea of our project is that, our existence or, to be more precise, our culture, is basically confined to our local community. So the project’s primary concern is to enhance and promote our rhythms - the form of our music and rich heritage to a wider audience world-wide to know us as Sudanese, or Kurdofanians or Abbala, Baqqara and Ghannama.

PanOrient News: You sang sometimes in English and French as well. Was that a part of your effort to overcome the dialect hurdle, or it was an attempt to expand your fan base?

Shaden: As Sudanese, we have so many different dialects. This has created a problem in communication among us. Thus, it may be a bit difficult to introduce our stuff to the outside world in our own dialects. But even in Sudan we sometimes have to sing in a standard language that all the Sudanese people can understand. However, when it comes to communicate our stuff to the outside world, we have to use a mode of communication that can be easily understood, and swiftly deliver our message. Therefore, we decided to introduce our music, as a first step, and to deal with lyrics at a later stage. In this latter part, we just translate the meanings of the songs to give the non-Sudanese audience a clue in order to understand and love what we are saying.

PanOrient News: What were the songs that you performed in English and French?

Shaden: I sang Jinak zai Wezzin and Amtie. I have another song as well, which is Antona al-Kheir Antona al-Salam which literally means give us good, give us peace. This song is in particular focusing on lyrics rather than music. As you know, we still need development and peace to prevail, because the whole world knows that we have lots of problems and wars raging in many parts of our country, so I call for peace in whatever language it takes to deliver our message.

PanOrient News: Sudan is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Have you ever thought of auditioning in dialects and musical genres other than Kurdofanian?

Shaden: As Kurdofanians, and as I said before, our dialects are mainly confined to our communities, interestingly, however, I sang in some other dialects, including the far west dialects’, the Nuba Mountains’ dialects and the so-called Juba’s Arabic dialect. But, by and large, I am planning to sing in other dialects as well. I guess, it is imperative for an artist to get acquainted with the diverse cultures of Sudan in order to represent it in a satisfactory manner.

PanOrient News: Your artistic debut was in Negoum al-Ghad, literally means Stars of Tomorrow, a Sudanese version of the Got Talent show, but you left citing some differences. Could you elaborate further on that?

Shaden: The Negoum al-Ghad show provides talented youngsters with the opportunity to deal with the stage, but it does not necessarily decide his or her artistic future. When I participated in the show, I was kind of hoping that it would provide me with some guidance. But, even among the participants, the interaction was not that encouraging. I have always wanted to sing folkloric and heritage songs from Kurdofan, which I adore very much. However, for some unforeseen reasons, I found myself auditioning something else instead. It just, sort of, didn’t feel like home for me, and that is why I left.

PanOrient News: Despite your very short tenure in the music scene, yet you have achieved fame, popularity and maintained an intense fan base. How did you manage to do that?

Shaden: I think the musical genre and beautiful lyrics may have got something to do with that. I came up with something different and appealing to everyone. When you come up with something differently positive, you will definitely win acclaim and attention. Anyone who has listened to our music has fallen in love with it, as he/she found it expressive of his/her thoughts or feelings. As you know, there are very few artists who are doing this kind of stuff, (folkloric songs). So, the lack of artists in this field may have increased the demand: “it is beauty in rarity” sort of stuff, you know!

PanOrient News: Girls’ songs in the countryside are said to be more outright and direct when celebrating love and passion stories. For example; songs like Andariyya and your latest hit al-Sukkar Hebaiba seem to justify those claims. What is your comment on that?

Shaden: Well; I guess that is because the people in the countryside are simple. They call a spade a spade. They don’t resort to metaphor or rhetoric that much. For instance, al-Hakkama (a poetess who is regarded as the tribe spokesperson) can compose lyrics praising her son or her husband, or the heroic and chivalrous acts of her tribe members, by the same token, a girl can sing praises of the guy she loves lyrically, and the boys, likewise, can sing for the girls, using Umbarabary, a guitarlike local instrument, which unfortunately, not so many Sudanese are aware of. I just want to say that everything over there is as simple as anyone could imagine. That is our way of life and culture and we are very much enamoured with it and hold it dear.

PanOrient News: You are a singer, a song-writer, a music-composer and a dancer as well. How did you combine all these talents?

Shaden: In fact, I came from a region where these things, particularly the notions of singing, poetry-reciting and dancing, were in abundant supply. Therefore, it wasn’t difficult for me to recite poetry like al-Hakkama does, or sing. May be composing music was the exception, as I had no chance to study music. So I write the lyrics, and based on the so-called inner rhythm of the poem, I intuitively and effortlessly get the melody.

PanOrient News: That is interesting because you have used the guitar in a way that has won acclaim and praises of even some music critics. How did you do that?

Shaden: Most of the songs that we perform, particularly the Abballa and nomadic tribes’, are largely inspired by the movement of camels, that is to say soft and tender. While the songs of the Baqqara , though characterized by hot and powerful rhythms, they are topped by soft lyrics however. Therefore, any musical instrument that has a powerful sound may somewhat affect the overall structure of the melody. I love the guitar; it is my favourite instrument, given the similarity it shares with Umbarabary. So we intuitively found ourselves drawn or attracted to it. And since our singing banks on the feet rhythms, clapping and namm-ing (Namm is a vocal that imitates the calf’s sound), we used it in a soft manner to allow the other aspects of the song (clapping and dancing, including the basic melody) a breathing space. We just want to say to the audience: “we have a very beautiful, simple and wonderful music that we want you to enjoy”.

PanOrient News: Your music style is characterized by intensive and diverse rhythms. Could you comment on that?

Shaden: First, the region (Kurdofan), where I came from, is marked by diversity in tribes and ethnicity. The Baqqarra or the Bedouin Arabs, for example, in their search for water and grazing, they come in contact with various tribes with different cultures, dialects and rhythms. As a result, an interaction occurs. For example, the Shuluk people (cattle herders from Southern Sudan) although they are also Baqqara, they differ from the Arab Baqqara in some rhythmic forms, even though both tribes’ rhythms are inspired by the movement of cows. In a wedding ceremony for instance, one can listen to different types of rhythms being played throughout the day.

PanOrient News: That is stunning diversity in such a single environment!

Shaden: That is right; I feel it is unfair to have all these beautiful things confined to our local community. There’s so much wonderful stuff and countless types of rhythms that have yet to be discovered and named.
PanOrient News: Sudan is considered one of the most diverse countries in the world. How do think such diversity could be tamed into a positive soft power without necessarily favouring an ethnicity over the other?

Shaden: In Sudan we have such beautiful diversity and rhythms that can tempt the outside world to import. Regions and places like Western Sudan, Kurdofan, the Nuba mountains, the South and other parts have lots of arts and rich cultures, but it is also a fact that these regions are experiencing wars, death out of hunger, diseases, lack of education and poverty. Therefore, amid such a gloomy atmosphere, it will be difficult for arts and creativity to thrive, much less for an artist to create. In addition, there seems to be a lack of interest in cultural stuff. Honestly-speaking, I couldn’t find an entity that is concerned with promoting our Sudanese cultures.

PanOrient News: In your famous song Youm Bukra you relied on the Spanish rhythm. It has been alleged that there’s a strong connection between the Mardom and the flamenco rhythms.

Shaden: The Mardom as a rhythm has always been familiar to me, and so has the flamenco. I don’t know the reason for such a familiarity, but when you listen to both rhythms, the parallel is amazing.

(It has been alleged that the Mardom was originated from the flamenco. Following al Andulus down fall and the expulsion of Arabs from Spain, Arabs retreated to North Africa and then to the rest of Africa carrying with them lots of cultural stuff, including the flamenco which might have experienced some alterations in the new environ)

PanOrient News: Let me change the subject a little, do you have any hobbies?

Shaden: I like sports and drawing. I wanted to study the fine arts, particularly, drawing, but my family persuaded me to study economy instead, perhaps out of fear that I might go “nuts”, because I used to do some “crazy” things.

PanOrient News: Do you have a surprise, any news, for your fans?

Shaden: Well, I am working on an album to be released soon. It contains new songs authored by me and other poets such as: Ahmed Eltigani Mahil, Elsadig Abu Ashara, Elmaleeh Yaqoub and others.

PanOrient News: Could you give us some hints about this album?

Shaden: It features a collection of 10 songs, including one in the Juba’s Arabic dialect, it is called “Let’s hold our Sudan dear… and build our valley together”.* It cherishes and addresses the virtue of tolerance, peace as well as our chagrins as a nation plagued by uncalled for conflicts and divisions. I have attempted, through this song, to console ourselves and at the same time send a message of solace to our “brothers” in the Southern Sudan. We lived together in one country, but politics divided us into two nations and made it difficult for us to communicate with each other. Also, I wanted to say that tolerance and respect for each other religions is a reflection of respect for our own values.

*(I was privileged to listen to some lyrics of that song. It was a call for tolerance, dialogue and peaceful coexistence. Furthermore, it embodies the notion that mutual respect of each other religious beliefs - is, in fact, a respect not only for our self-esteem and humanity, but also can be a successful recipe for nation building.)

PanOrient News: To whom do you owe your success?

Shaden: Much of the credit goes to the community where I came from for been a natural inspiration, my larger family which has been supportive and Mr. Elmosley, the renowned Sudanese entertainer and music composer who has been providing invaluable help and guidance. I remain forever grateful to Mr. Yasir Araki, Mr. Hassan Fudlalmula, Mrs. Lamya, Mr. Elketyyabi, Mr. Elfawal, Dr. Elmahi Sulaiman as well as all those who have been supportive of me over the years. I am really grateful to all of them. To sum, I feel that my endeavor is still at incipient stage. More help and efforts are needed in order for it to achieve its ends.

PanOrient News: Shadin, it has been a pleasure to talk with you. I wish you all the best in your artistic endeavor.

Shaden: It was also a pleasure being with you.

Photographer: Salah Omer of Al Khaleej Newspaper.

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