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Abu Obaida Hassan & His Tambour: The Shaigiya Sound of Sudan

by Abu Obaida Hassan

supported by
Matt Banash
Matt Banash thumbnail
Matt Banash Let the music break your heart
©ough©ool thumbnail
©ough©ool Not a single word do I understand, because it doesn't matter, this is beautiful fucking music made by real people with struggles & lives we wouldn't understand Favorite track: La...La (Don't Say I Am Betraying You).
Mandibole thumbnail
Mandibole Because it fuuuucks. Favorite track: Nas Fi Nas (People on People).
bonnieprince thumbnail
bonnieprince fantastic beats, and some really great tunes. really infectious vocal lines

it's amazing how many gems never made it further than their own corner of the world. fantastic we can discover stuff like this much more easily now. get in on it and support the continued hunt for new music for us all! Favorite track: La...La (Don't Say I Am Betraying You).
Sinkane thumbnail
Sinkane Take a trip outside of Khartoum (Sudan's largest city and capital)... Go up north and experience the Sahara Desert in all its glory. The small towns, pyramids, oases. Walk into any sooq and you'll hear this music blown out of a Panasonic. Shaigiya music will put you in a trance (esp. when it's 115 degrees outside). It's an out of body experience that'll take you deep into yourself. These are love songs, though.. so... Get into a sauna and put on this record after 15 minutes. See what happens....
icarus4 thumbnail
★★★★☆ (4/5)
How could I not love it?
Daweena 06:33


Abu Obaida Hassan passed away on September 2, 2021 in Khartoum. 100% of all digital sales will be forwarded to his estate. Thank you for your support of an amazing, mercurial, otherworldly artist.

"Music with effortless swing"
-- BBC Radio 3

"The world needs more tracks of Abu Obaida Hassan's"
-- BBC Newsday

"A true revelation from Ostinato Records"
-- Red Bull Radio

"Hypnotic, rootsy, soulful with a ratchet twist."
-- Alsarah

"One of the greatest representations of Sudanese music and a great gateway into the wonderful world of Sudan."
-- Sinkane


Abu Obaida Hassan and the wonders of his five-string tambour remained largely a mystery. In the early 2000s, a prominent Sudanese newspaper declared him dead. Internet forums confirmed his passing. Many in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, said he had indeed died. But rumors that he was still alive persisted.

What was always certain is Abu Obaida Hassan’s mercurial talent. His command of a modified tambour, backed by a chorus and two drummers, unleashed swirling melodies alongside complex Nubian rhythms and hypnotic Sudanese call and response. His bands roster constantly changed, but he remained at the helm, playing for sold out shows in cities across the country and capturing the dancefloors and youth of 1970s and ‘80s Sudan.

This is a rich, raw example of the human experience with sound from northern Sudan, an ancient part of the world, and the birthplace of civilization. Music like this isn't mastered overnight.

The Ostinato team first came across Abu Obaida’s recordings in 2011, finding scratchy bits and pieces along the years. We traveled to Sudan in 2016 to find the clues to piece together the Abu Obaida Hassan puzzle. Through some extensive detective work with our man in Khartoum, Ahmed Asyouti, and a generous dose of good fortune, we tracked Abu Obaida to the rural outskirts of Omdurman, the old capital just across the White Nile from Khartoum. Age has taken its toll, but he remains full of life and music, ready to jointly curate a selection of his eight best cuts. He has written over 100 songs, only 30 were recorded.

Abu Obaida comes from the Shaigiya people, whose culture is spread around the ancient city of Merowe, home of traditional Nubian culture, where pyramids older than those in Egypt still stand. They trace their entire lineage to one man, Shaig, who migrated from the Arabian peninsula in the 15th century. An endlessly rhythmic syncretism between Arab and Nubian styles, Abu Obaida’s Shaigiya music was an in demand party affair in an era when a vibrant nightlife and roving sound systems were staples of life in Sudan.

It was music for a modern era, and Abu Obaida, at just 19, rebelliously abandoned traditional Shaigiya music traditions, pioneering a new sound by adding an extra string to his tambour and electrifying an instrument adored across East Africa. The result was complexity in simplicity and a hyper-talented artist who mirrors the story of Sudan’s highs and lows, from the leading tambour maestro of the hour to such obscurity on the fringes that he was believed dead. “They killed me!”, he likes to joke.

Abu Obaida Hassan, his music and the musical traditions of the Shaigiya remain alive and kicking. A culmination of a 7-year journey — from first hearing Abu Obaida’s distinct sound, found only in Sudan, to finding the man — has produced the first global release of Shaigiya music and is the first chapter of Ostinato’s immersion into Sudan, with a full compilation of the lavish musical history of one the most diverse countries in Africa due later this year. All brought to you by the Grammy-nominated team behind last year’s “Sweet As Broken Dates.”


released May 25, 2018

All songs licensed courtesy of Abu Obaida Hassan

Compiled & Curated by Vik Sohonie & Abu Obaida Hassan

Project Coordination by Ahmed Asyouti

Restoration & Mastering by Michael Graves

Design by Pete White

Calligraphy by Josh Berer

Special Thanks to Philippe Noel (Canicule Tropical), Jannis Stürtz (Habibi Funk), Tamador Sheikh Eldin Gibreel & George of the Acropole Hotel

℗ Ostinato Records LLC 2018.


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Ostinato Records New York, New York


Nominated for a Grammy and the German Records Critics Prize.

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