Radiodiffusion Internasionaal Annexe

Abdel Karim El Kabli
August 10, 2008, 4:39 am
Filed under: Sudan

Khaal Fatma

Elleil Aa’d

Abdel Karim El Kabli (also seen as Abdel Karim Al Kabli) is from Sudan.

Sudanese music is based on the pentatonic scale: scale with five notes to the octave, like the black notes in the piano (in contrast to an heptatonic, seven note, scale like the gypsy or Egyptian scale). It is similar to the Scottish, Chinese and Puerto Rican music. Celtic folk music, American blues music also utilize the pentatonic scale music. Well, here… I’ll let Abdel Karim El Kabli explain.

Contemporary Sudanese music might be a potpourri of diverse traditions, but it has emerged as a unique blend, with a character all of its own. It is rooted in the madeeh (praising the Prophet Mohamed in song). The genre filled out into something quite irreverent in the 1930s and 1940s when Haqibah music, the madeeh’s secular successor, caught on. Haqiba, a predominantly vocal art in which the musicians accompanying the lead singer use few instruments, spread like wildfire in the urban centres of Sudan. It was the music of weddings, family gatherings and wild impromptu parties. Haqibah drew inspiration from indigenous Sudanese and other African musical traditions in which backing singers clapped along rhythmically and the audience joined in both song and dance. The lead singer’s incantations induced a trance-like experience in which spectators swayed along to the rhythm of the beat. The Sudanese music influence can also be heard in neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Chad and Eritrea.

Musical instruments in Sudan vary from chordophone instrument such as tambour which is the most common instruments used throughout Sudan. Rabbabah (a stringed bowl-shaped lyre. Its strings determine the available pitches, and its tone depends on the musician playing technique. Bowing, plucking or strumming will yield a harmonious rhythm), um kiki (woodwind instrument) other kinds of such instruments used in Ingasna (now known as New Sudan) and Kassala regions. Percussion instruments such as drums are also common in the Sudan, the nuggara (west Sudan) the taar (Northern and Eastern Sudan) and the dalouka (Eastern and Central) are all names of drums. Sudanese play also other instruments such as lute or oud, as well as western instruments especially in modern Sudanese pop-music, such as accordions, saxophones, electric guitars, basses, violins, banjos are often used.

Abdel Karim El Kabli was born in 1933 in Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast, moving to Khartoum at the age of 16 to attend Khartoum Commercial Secondary School. Having taught himself first the penny-whistle and then the oud and shetern (small drum), he would eventually go on to study Sudanese folk music and Arabic poetry at the University of Khartoum. Although he took a position as a courts inspector for the clerical division of the Sudanese judiciary, following his graduation, he continued to be fascinated by music.

El Kabli first gained popularity, when he wrote Sukkar, Sukkar (Sugar, Sugar) in 1962, a take on the Twist, the dance craze he had just encountered in England, and which he claimed could be traced back to the Zār ritual in Sudan. Soon after his success, he went to live in Saudi Arabia for a few years in the late 1970s. Having found financial security but little creative impulse he returned to Sudan, his primary source of inspiration.

His role in rediscovering and collecting Sudanese folklore has since brought invitations to lecture at academic institutions and perform at cultural events in many countries. Although like most Sudanese his songs are mainly about love, his lyrics increasingly tackle issues of social and human concern. The avuncular poet, composer and folklorist, now in his mid-sixties, has become a walking encyclopaedia of the musical heritage of north, east and central Sudan. El Kabli embraces both colloquial and classical styles, and is equally beloved by academics and ordinary Sudanese. Gifted with a finely-pitched audio memory, which allows him to learn songs after hearing them only a few times, he has built a repertoire of hundreds of traditional Sudanese songs.

Abdel Karim El Kabli is still recording and performing throughout the world. He has a website and he also has a profile on Facebook.

Catalog number 1004 A_B… No record company listed. Produced by Levon Keshishian, who was an Armenian working for the United Nations as correspondent of the Sudan News Agency. No other information available.



Your blog is a real enjoyment ! so much surprises ! thanks for sharing this 🙂

Comment by ben

Sorry to ask, but is there a number 166 ?

Comment by proof

Yes. It is in the post… You just have to find it.

Comment by radiodiffusion

there’s new albums

Comment by solan

The bit about “the” pentatonic scale is pretty far off the mark. I don’t want to go into here (feel free to contact me) but suffice it to say the whole paragraph is wrong, or at least highly controversial. Nice post otherwise and very nice music, thanks.

Comment by owen gardner


Just about every article that I have seen on the music of Sudan has mentioned the pentatonic scale. Even El Kabli talks about it in the introduction for this album. You can hear that here.

Comment by radiodiffusion

Dear all..
you can find Alkabli’s songs at Amazon and iTunes

Comment by Solan

Great sudanese music. For more music from Sudan check out Blue Nile Records your gate to great cd’s.

Comment by MOHAMED

Comments are closed.

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