In this new single, the American-Sudanese band honors the youth who resist in Africa’s most Arab-influenced country.
Born in Khartoum, Alsarah is a singer and ethnomusicologist. Her parents, both human rights activists, found themselves threatened by Omar el-Bechir’s 1989 coup d’état. As a result, Alsarah was forced to leave her native country for Yemen at the age of eight up until the civil war in 1994. Later, she ended up living in the United States as a refugee. During this difficult period, music provided an escape while maintaining a link with her roots. In 2010, the artist founded Alsarah & the Nubatones, along with her sister Nahid, bassist Kodjovi Mawuena, percussionist Rami El-Aasser and oud player Haig Manoukian, who was later replaced by Brandon Terzic.
Their new track “Men Ena” was first written in early 2019, in the midst of the Sudanese revolution. Two years later, Alsarah questions the future of her native country with a touch of dissapointment mingled with her steadfast revolutionary outlook. She explains: “In this song I hope to define myself through the joys of memories past, and those coming up. A song to plan for the joy you wish to have and focus the mind on the essence of who you wish to be so that the future may happen.” The video was shot in Sudan, in February 2020, by an all-Sudanese crew. Alsarah defines it this way: “This is a labor of love that is a gift by us for us.” The release date of this single falls on the anniversary of several memorable events in Sudanese political history, from 1985 to 2019, from the coup d’etat to huge protests throughout the country.
In the video, we see a young woman in the grip of love followed by dismay in the face of a future that still seems so unpromising. Alsarah sings, in an eminently poetic way: “Who am I if I didn’t cry out in your sake, my foot pounding the road to your destiny, who am I, it has come to a dead end, and there was a moment of stillness before the sandstorms and I was standing awaiting you saying, who am I.” The director of the video, Mai Elgizouli, explains her feelings when she first heard this song, “The first scene I remember imagining was a girl standing alone, her beloved had disappeared from in front of her during the events of the dispersing of the strike at the HQ, and when she got home and tried to call him, in the moments waiting for his response, she didn’t care if she lived or died from the intensity of her sadness and broken-heart.”
The director adds that this video is meant to encourage survivors following traumatic events, to aid them in not suffering guilt by learning to value their own lives: “As I listened to many stories from various young people who felt survivor’s guilt after the traumatic events of the massacre I began to think more about the subject of mental health and the importance of Art and Music, especially during a time like this, in allowing us to come to terms with who we are and realize the importance of our emotional healing.” This project is also an ode to Sudanese pop culture: “I also spoke to Alsarah about wanting to bring back memories of vintage Sudanese TV drama series such as Aldhbabia, Dakeen,’Aqmar Aldhwahi to people’s minds.. These dramas played a big role in our entertainment before the local production of Sudanese TV dramas stopped for many many years due to various political reasons, and a disregard by the nation towards Actors and TV production in general.”