Andualem Sisay, AfricaNews reporter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Omer Ihsas, a well known Sudanese musician, is touring the world to bring the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan to everyone's attention. He travels all over the world to perform, and give interviews in full support of the cause of Darfur.
Starting from Darfur, Omer Ihsas crossed the Sudanese borders, through Khartoum, and became the leading Sudanese musician in support of the peace efforts in the conflict of Darfur. For this cause, Omer Ihsas, who got his nickname Ihssas from one of his songs, is now in Europe on a big campaign and fund-raising event.
In addition to the on-going efforts that are already in place, a proposal of music rally in support of the peace efforts in Darfur has been suggested. Darfur's conflict is a complicated humanitarian problem that needs everyone's attention and support. As a musician, I have composed couple of songs addressing the problem of Darfur; I have tackled the roots of the problem, long ago before this conflict broke out, and emphasized the importance of living in peace and harmony, he said.
In July this year, he went to the U.S to participate in the second Sudanese Music Festival, which took place in two of the biggest cities in the U. S, Chicago, Illinois and Detroit, Michigan.
He said: The festival was the biggest Sudanese music gathering in the U.S. I was honoured to participate in the event, which I think, desperately needed to start off a campaign of introducing Sudanese music to the world. Despite its uniqueness and distinctiveness, Sudanese music is still unpopular around the world. Therefore, we as Sudanese, musicians or otherwise, have the responsibility of publishing our music, and Sudanese who live abroad have a chance of playing such a role, he added.
Omer Ihsas participated in a series of international music events. 'Arab Song Festival in Tunisia', was his first participation in an international event, which gave him the courage and support he needed, and prepared him for subsequent international music events such as 'Dubai First Marketing Festival', in 1996.
In 2000, he participated in Cairo Broadcast International Festival, and received the silver medal for his song "Zooli Hooi". The award marked the first Sudanese song ever to win the silver in that competition. Then, he also participated in a carnival in Lebanon, and performed his song "Roads of Peace", for which he won an award as well.
My participation in international music events has increased and I performed almost in all Arab countries except Kuwait, Algeria and Bahrain. In addition, I participated in festival in India, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Netherlands, Great Britain, Austria, Switzerland, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya and Chad, he said.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Mootwakil, Elmawsali and Ms. Dawn for taking the initiative to publish Sudanese music in the U.S, and therefore around the world. I think, the festival was a success; it was a mission well carried, but I have to say that I could hardly enjoy the success without the presence of some of our musician colleagues who did not participate this time around.
I am really hoping to see them playing, next time, and doing their part, which they have proudly and honorably done. The challenge is big, but with our determination and commitment we will definitely achieve our goals. So, we all need to come together, for the sake of the Sudan, "Azza", and support the cause, he added
As one of the main purposes of these international carnivals is experience, interaction and exposure to different cultures of music and people, Omer Ihsas personally benefited from this experience and learned a great deal about conducing myself on the stage. I think, we do not have that kind of exposure and experience in our music; we do not effectively interact with the audience, we do not engage them enough in our performance, he said to the media after his show in the US.
I think the same approach is needed in our Sudanese music; we need to hold similar international events so we can introduce our music to other nations and get the benefit of exposure. This way, I think, we can achieve not only social goals but political as well.
It will help us, as Sudanese, to express our diverse culture; furthermore, it may satisfy our feeling of being targeted and unfairly treated. On the other hand, politicians can also benefit from the cultural exchange that happens during these events, and send their own messages out to other nations with whom we have difficulty of communication, he said.
However, achieving these goals requires, in the first place, freedom of speech that is meaningful and available to all Sudanese people. Sudan, as a multi-ethnic and cultural nation, value and appreciate their privacy, which includes their music rituals. This privacy has to be respected and protected in order to develop and effectively communicate our music, and culture to other nations.
Currently Omer Ihsas is supporting foundation of elementary schools in Darfur through his membership in Darfur Peace and Development Organization that is headed by Professor Suliman Jeddo.
Today the number of students registered in these schools has exceeded 8,000 in 15 schools. The organization also supports women in the region of Darfur. In addition, the organization has taken the initiative of building another school for children who lost their parents "during the war."