Muhammad Wardi is certainly a name that exceeds all introductions. Africa’s first ranking artist is frank and bold. He is also well-known for the many generations his songs and composition have influenced, and many compare him to the Nile in its generosity.
While Wardi was on a vacation to China visiting doctors and examining his health condition, I called him, following the rule saying follow Wardi even if to China”. Let us have a stop with him and recall his talking. What has Wardi said in an interview that mixed politics with art?
Hello Mr. Wardi.
How is it with your medical treatment?
Well, thank God… in the best possible condition.
Though your artistic and family life are well known to people, we have many questions, by which we hopefully try to come with something new about Wardi.
(Laughing) go ahead, like what?
Muhammad Wardi is one of Sudans most famous singers and song writers. He is also well known for his research on the Nubian language and heritage.
I have been informed by your son Abdulwahab that Zaydan Ibrahim is the artist you prefer, or to put it more accurately, the one you prefer for family occasions?
For me, no artist has preference over another. I only prefer some songs of great artists such as Othman Hussein, Ahmad Al-Mustafi, Al-Kashef, Abdulaziz Muhammad Dawoad, and Hasan Ateyah who are red lines as they have taught us. Ibrahim Awad is our generation’s artist and with him the modern simple song has appeared to existence. We have just followed him. Salah Mustafi, Salah Ibn Al-Badeyah, Sharhabeel and I are the sons of the same generation. However, each is of different school and intellectual and cultural trends.
You have said that you like some songs. Could you please give us some examples?
Ahmad Al-Jabery’s (Letters), Khalil Ismail’s (Nice Hopes) and there is also the song I called (the Cock’ Egg) which belongs to a Singer called Fathi Hussein, who lives currently in Saudi Arabia. The song the real title of which is (the Dear who has never thought of us), has been written by Poet Sa’ad Addein Ibrahim. I like this song very much, and as artists, we have our own standards in testing songs.
Who is the closest singer to your heart?
The singer who was my real friend was the late Khojli Othman. I enjoy Zaydan’s voice and I like his songs composed by Omar Al-Sha’er. However, he stopped at that stage adding nothing new.
\"Singers must have knowledge of their country’s cultural heritage, which is very rich in our country.\"
Could you please explain this?
Each artist has his own line. When Omar Al-Sha’er composed for Zaydan, he added to his accounts as well as to Zaydan’s, and that is why when he no more composed, Zaydan did not move forward. Going backward, we find that Ibrahim Awad, Al-Taher Ibrahim and Abdurrahman complete each other as a poet, a composer and a singer. This condition hardly exists today; the singer still exists while the composer disappears. Composing is turning into a big problem resulting from song inactivity. Composing could be said to have stopped with the masters of composing who either passed away or stopped composing like Bora’ey Muhammad Dafallah, Asseni Addawi, Arabi, and Abdullatif Kheder.
The present generation offers voices but not composers who are the most important creative force, and their absence left songs missing something, which is clearly obvious in the chaos and similarity we witness among songs. Low level songs have emerged due to the low quality of lyrics and compositions available.Good compositions are not available for good voices, and composers, like Mr. Salah Edris who is still composing in the 1950s style, do not meet the requirements of the stage.
Mr. Wardi, I think that the present generation of singers is not well educated about the song heritage and history, and thus unaware of its development track, how far do you agree with this opinion?
\"As artists, we have not sought to integrate the Northern heritage with that of the South, which is characterized by its richness, and which stresses our African identity.\"
It is not enough for one to have the talent in order to be a (singer). Singers must have knowledge of their country’s cultural heritage, which is very rich in our country. Since they are singing for diversified nation, Sudanese singers must be familiar with the different styles of singing depending on the area like that of AL-Anqasna, North of Kordofan, South of Kordofan and Darfur, and with rhythms of Al-Shaigia, Sayra and Tum Tum. He who does not know such components is certainly ignorant of his heritage. For Example, the Shaigi Singer is restricted to Dalib, but things will be different, when he knows all the rhythms. Having not approached the South in this regard, it is only because not a single artist is well- informed about the southern style of singing, which in turn does not help us staying united. Cultural intermixture and artistic creativity exceed politics and economy in enhancing unity. What I want to say to many new singers is that graduation from universities is not enough. They should pay attention to knowledge because lacking it causes them to be marginalized.
You have tackled a very sensitive issue when saying that not a single artist is well-informed about the southern style of singing. Let us talk about the call for unity, is it a real call, an illusion or a great trick?
The current unity is nothing but a lie and it is not attractive. The best case to describe our situation is that of the people of the cave” who were asleep. We have thought along the five years since the Naivasha Agreement was signed in 2005, that it will not be implemented even after elections, just to wake up immediately to find ourselves calling for our attractive unity, as if joking. By we, I do not mean the northern part of Sudan, but all the Sudanese who have not worked for unity. As I have just mentioned, getting familiar with the other’s arts facilitates unity.
As artists, we have not sought to integrate the northern heritage with that of the South, which is characterized by its richness, and which stresses that of the neighboring districts: our African identity. Authorities implement a policy that people are supposed to sing in their native language, whether they are Nubians like me, of east Sudan or of Al-Anqasna, and not in Arabic. I am not against Arabic, but against that policy since those people, if allowed to sing in their own languages without being restricted, will certainly add to their heritage.We need a law to classify singing. If I, Muhammad Wardi the important singer, went to Robo’a Al-Sudan Program, I would be paid naught prices, which would degrade me as a Nubian. Moreover, if you go to the broadcasting station with a rebec, they will ask you to play the lute. This problem is not restricted to southern people in particular, but to all other ethnic groups.
Do you mean that we are living on borrowed time?
We do not even have borrowed time. I am really worried about what will come later. Oil and borders are not the only issues to worry about; there is also the future of Darfur, the East and the North. Eventually, Sudan will turn into dub-districts.
This is an edited and translated version of an interview that was published in Al-Ahdath Newspaper, Khartoum, in November 2010.