The “Whale” of Sudanese Music Passes

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A South Sudanese woman picks up her parasol felled by the wind next to her fruit and vegetables stand at Gudele market in Juba, South Sudan 23 January 2012. (Photo: AFP - Camille Lepage)

By: Jamal Jubran

Published Wednesday, January 23, 2013

News of Sudanese singer Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz’s death came as a shock to his fans. The singer, born in 1967, was hospitalized in Jordan after suffering from a brain hemorrhage that caused extensive damage. Though a media blackout aimed to prevent word of his death from spreading, his Sudanese fans somehow picked up on the news.

As Abdel-Aziz’s body arrived at the airport in Khartoum, the singer’s fans took to the streets, blocking the road to the airport and storming the runway. Flights were delayed amid rumors that security forces didn’t want people to know the true arrival time of the singer’s body.

Authorities assumed wrongly that the fans would tire of waiting; the crowds remained for hours, awaiting the final arrival of Sudan’s “Idol of the Youth,” as he was once called.

Abdel-Aziz’s voice had entered every Sudanese home. His albums broke sales and distribution records: he had 27 albums, including 170 original songs. Perhaps it was this prolific output during his short career that prompted critics to call him the “Whale.”

Abdel-Aziz got his start singing in group concerts, but in the early 1990s he embarked on a solo career that would take him to Cairo, Eritrea, and Djibouti. His stardom and popularity increased with every new album release. His first album, “Khalli Balak,” meaning “Be Careful” in Arabic, was released in 1994 and included five original songs.

Though Abdel-Aziz avoided association with any political faction, he continued to visit and perform in South Sudan knowing that the authorities in Khartoum would not be pleased. But the late singer followed his heart, which took him across the country, from its north to its south.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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