Iconic Sudanese Singer Mohammed Wardi Dies

Published February 19, 2012 11:18AM (EST)

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Famed Sudanese singer Mohammed Osman Wardi, who popularized the music of his native Nubia, died Saturday at the age of 80, the state media reported.

The reports said the singer died of kidney complications in a Khartoum hospital. His funeral early Sunday was aired live on state television, despite his strained relation with the country's Islamist government.

Wardi, who hailed from Sudan's northern region of Nubia, played traditional instruments such as the stringed oud and the tambour drums but also sang to more modern instrumental arrangements. He is credited with pioneering a focus on the musical accompaniment of his pieces, as opposed to earlier generations of singers who concentrated on vocals and lyrics.

His repertoire included love songs as well as more politicized pieces favoring Sudanese independence and later uprisings against military regimes in 1964 and 1986.

He was associated with Sudan's political left. He went into exile following the 1983 imposition of Islamic law codes by then-President Gaafar Numeiri, but returned to Sudan in the last decade, still keeping his distance from the government.

His fame extends to neighboring African countries including Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.

By Salon Staff

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