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Care for Cultural Icons from the Pre-Bashir Era

Once lauded as one of Sudan’s finest musicians, Abu Obaida Hassan faded into obscurity under the Bashir regime and was even pronounced dead. Now he is back – to global acclaim. A fixture on the Khartoum music scene during its golden era of the 70s and early 80s, Abu Obaida subsequently faded into obscurity through a combination of misfortune and Sudan’s shifting politics. Things reached the point where, 20 years ago, one prominent Sudanese newspaper pronounced him dead. Rumours of his survival persisted, however, sustained by fans trading his songs through online forums and Khartoum record shops, by sheer devotion to the man who could play the tambour like no other. Sparked by increased local news coverage of the artists’ neglect and poor health, representatives from Sudan’s ministry of culture and members of the public began visiting the homes of golden-era musicians like singer Abdel Aziz El Mubarak and Abu Obaida. Social media campaigns soliciting donations were matched by government offers to pay both musicians’ medical bills, before El Mubarak’s death in early February.