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RAI Research Seminar: Ahmed Rahman

February 12 2020 @ 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm



Mohamed Wardi and his contribution to the kisir (tambour) music of Sudan

Ahmed A Rahman (MMus Ethnomusicology)

Wednesday 12 February at 5.30 pm

Since relatively little is known about Sudanese music, this presentation will give an introduction to Sudanese music and culture by means of interactive multimedia. It will focus upon the traditional musical instrument known as the kisir in the Nile Nubian languages and as the tambour in colloquial Sudanese Arabic. The presentation will also explore the important role of the singer and songwriter Mohamed Wardi (1932-2012) who was one of the most outspoken Sudanese intellectuals. He protested against many measures taken by the state to impose restrictions on artists. For about 30 years he was a Communist and then he supported the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for about 20 years until his death in 2012.

The present study evaluates the role of Wardi’s music in the development of the tambour in Nubian music and in the urban music of the Sudan. This required him to develop a huge understanding and ability to adapt to traditional music all over the Sudan. The present study will also evaluate the tambour itself together with the life of Wardi, particularly his childhood, and the lifestyle of his village in the early years of the last century and before the major forced migration of Nubians in 1964. His early methods of learning the tambour will be examined. Furthermore, this paper presents information about the status of musicians in the time and place when he was young, in such villages as his birthplace Sawarda and surrounding areas. Rural musicians will be compared with urban musicians in the city of Khartoum at that time. The presentation will also discuss the impact of politics and religion on Wardi’s artistic life. All this aims at gaining a deeper insight and appreciation of the tambour music of Wardi. This musical tradition will be examined to see how it has become a tool for creating a unity within what is arguably the most ethnically, culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse country in Africa.

This research is designed to serve as the basis for creating manuals for teaching the Nubian tambour based on Wardi’s personal methods of learning to play it. Wardi’s methods were based on orally transmitted techniques. The present author hopes that the new manuals of teaching the tambour will benefit from his own long experience as a musician and performer. He will make use of an adaptation of the system of numbered musical notation created by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and which is widespread in Japan, Taiwan and mainland China. Future methods and materials for teaching are inspired by the Online Afghan Rubab Tutor which was developed by Professor John Baily.


Ahmed is a Sudanese musician and composer who has been permanently resident in the UK since 1991. Having graduated with Division One Distinction from the Sudan University of Science and Technology, School of Music, he also spent 4 years in China where he studied the Erhu (traditional Chinese fiddle) and gained a Certificate in Composition for Chinese Music and Traditional Chinese Musical Instruments.
In 1995 in the UK Ahmed gained a Master’s Degree in Ethnomusicology from Goldsmiths College, University of London, with his main dissertation on The Use and Function of Music in Ethiopian Culture.
In 1999 Ahmed gained a Master’s Degree in Electronic Media from Oxford Brookes University. From September 2006 – 2016 he was Adult Education Lecturer in City of Oxford College. He developed and taught Digital Media courses including creative IT for all levels, desktop publishing, web design, digital photography, film making, and advanced multimedia presentation skills for teachers.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked. To book tickets please go to https://ahmedrahman.eventbrite.co.uk 

Location : Royal Anthropological Institute
50 Fitzroy Street
United Kingdom


February 12 2020
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
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