After an unimaginable year of violence and chaos, with tens of thousands killed and millions displaced and in danger of starvation, now is the time to keep talking about Sudan. Here’s some music and listening in the hopes of demanding action.

The world faces competing crises at the moment, in particular urgently endangering civilians in Gaza, Ukraine, and Sudan (at least to start). As with Ukrainian and Palestinian communities, the Sudanese community is hit hard with this one in international cities like Berlin as well as in the region. It’s arresting to read pleas from aid and community organizations just to talk about Sudan, even though its displacement and famine crises are worse than anywhere else in the world. The UN is warning five million are at risk of starvation with 17.7 million of the 49 million facing acute food insecurity; you can read the leaders of the UN and World Food Programme in their urgent plea published in Al Jazeera yesterday, as Europe talks about aid today. Aid only just began reaching Darfur again for the first time in months, and it still is far from enough. But let’s talk about Sudan and pass on some resources and listening that should be well suited to sharing with friends in our music communities.

I think it’s vital to share music just to avoid the numbing, distant effect of only news. So we can start with the artist who has earned the most attention for Sudanese synth sounds, the legendary Jantra, maker of the style known as Jaglara. That’s “synth maestro” Ahmed Mohamed Yaqoup Eltom, with arrangements by Vik Sohonie & Janto Koité, which got a much-acclaimed release shortly after the war began last year. As elsewhere on the continent, virtuoso instrumentalists scooped up synths, drum machines, and other electronic noisemakers and reimagined them with polyrhythms and deep grooves. From New York-based Ostinato Records, we have Synthesized Sudan: Astro​-​Nubian Electronic Jaglara Dance Sounds from the Fashaga Underground (artist seen above as photographed by Ostinato’s Janto Koité):

And this looks just as incredible live:

The label spoke last year to Middle East Eye, and in a rare interview, Jantra talked to The Guardian in September, including discussing customizations that hack the keyboards for Sudanese use:

“Times are very tough,” Jantra says. “You cannot move around the country easily and there are fewer gigs for me, but life goes on. Things are calmer here in Gedarif but the world should pray for Sudan.”

“People have weapons but it’s to celebrate, not to harm anybody,” says Jantra. “This energy allows me to keep playing. Sometimes up to eight hours non-stop.” His music pours out of powerful custom-built Sudanese sound systems, via keyboards that have been customised at a specialised market to incorporate Sudanese timbres. “I make the rhythms, tones, percussion, everything,” Jantra says. “Everything is on a USB but if you plug that into a keyboard that has not been made to work for Sudanese music, it will not sound the same.”

‘People have weapons, but it’s to celebrate!’ Jantra, the Sudanese keyboardist making wild party music

More on those mods:

There was also an international remix EP and a tee designed by German-Ghanian artist C. Nii ARMAH.

In September, our friends at Refuge Worldwide checked in with Sudan Solidarity Festival here in Berlin, which brought together activism and Sudanese artists and international audiences. This show includes both music and discussion of the situation (maddeningly not improved in the intervening time):

aequea Radio host Sarj also brought in discussion, revolutionary music, readings, history, and more from December:

For a sense of how issues can be connected, look to Lou, German-Sudanese feminist and community organizer, and also on Refuge Worldwide, talking about BIWOC* anti-imperialist feminist organizing.

Not to center big media, but they do have the ability to talk to folks on the ground. BBC this weekend ran a partner documentary speaking to a recent college graduate and an aid worker about the reality of this war. Al Jazeera spoke last month with their correspondent Hiba Morgan about the horrifying realization of Sudan’s New Normal.

Follow Hiba Morgan on X for her ongoing reporting and commentary. She reposts another Sudanese voice, Dallia Abdelmoniem, talking about the failures of major media in reporting the full scale of crises and massacres:

African Arguments features Pan-African media and original sources, via that site, here are two resources to recommend:

‘Don’t Agonize, Organize!’ Remembering Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem’s Advocacy on Sudan

I’ve recommended The Fire These Times before for coverage of Israel/Palestine and Lebanon; they also recently hosted Dallia Abdelmoniem (also above) and Raga Makawi:

Sudan in Revolution and War

Mentioned in that show:

Beats of the Antonov from PBS is a 2015 documentary on music in Sudan in the midst of ongoing war.

To round this out with some more music, Ostinato has this beautiful release:

A soundtrack of Sudan’s revolution and the first ever international release of the Beja sound, performed by Noori and his Dorpa Band, an unheard outfit from Port Sudan, a city on the Red Sea coast in eastern Sudan and the heart of Beja culture.

Habibi Funk shared “king of Sudanese jazz” Sharhabil Ahmed:

I’m sure there’s plenty more to share – music and organizing alike. If you’re working on this issue, if you’re from Sudan or the Sudanese diaspora, we’d love to hear from you.

And keep talking.

For journalists, AMEJA (the Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association) has a media resource guide covering Sudan’s civil war.