Abdel Gadir Salim

© Hugo Glendinning

Abdel Gadir Salim is one of the leading figures of the generation of musicians who created the urban song style in the seventies, without ever denying its sources. This unusually tall princely figure with a permanent smile on his lips was one of the trio of contemporary Sudanese stars who undertook a European tour in 1986, the very first of its kind for any musicians from the Sudan. The previous year he had appeared in the « Days of Arab Music in Nanterre », where he quickly conquered the public with his new-sounding, hitherto unknown music.

Abdel Gadir was born in El-Obeid, the most important oasis town nestling right in the heart of the province of Kordofan. He was destined to be a teacher but his passion for singing was to decide otherwise. In spite of the fact that there had never been a musician in his family before, he learnt to play the lute at a very young age. He taught himself at first, and then went on to regis­ter for five years of study at the Institute of Music and Theatre. It was here that he learned the notions of classical music, though the music of Kordofan remained his first love.

Abdel Gadir Salim’s compositions are inspired by his beloved homeland of Kordofan. At first he sang solo, accompanying himself on the lute. In 1970 he recorded his best-known song for radio and tele­vision, the one that was really to establish his fame, « Umri Ma Bansa /1 shall never forget you », and one that immediately tou­ched the hearts of all Sudanese. This song was to have the same far-reaching influence as the standard “Mambo sûdanî” and paved the way to a whole movement of renewal that still mana­ged in spite of everything to keep to the original melody. Meanwhile Salim founded the All Stars group, composed of seven musicians on violins, guitar, oriental and Western percus­sion instruments (bongos) and the saxophone. In spite of his gro­wing fame, Abdel Gadir Salim has remained modest and the popularity he now enjoys is due to various factors.

Christian Poché
Translated by Delia Morris

Available album: Khartoum Blues