Sudan: Salah Ibn Albadya - Departure of a Multi-Talented Artist

2 September 2019

The last work of art performed by the late singer, actor, Salah Ibn Albadya was his patriotic song: "ya bilady (Oh! my country)". That was when he graced the signing ceremony on 18 August of the political and constitutional documents between the civilian opposition and the military that put the country on the threshold of democratic rule.

But good memories do not last long. For last Monday came the sad news that Artist Salah was no longer with us and had passed in a hospital in Amman, Jordan (aged 82).

A wave of deep mourning swept all Sudanese old and young. For in the same sentiment he was loved by the older population who saw him step in the world of art in the mid 1950s, he was also equally adored by the young generations who eagerly tuned to his many immortal melodies.

Salah's last performance before death

In a comment to Sudanow, lyric writer Mukhtar Dafalla said Salih Aljaily Abugroon (who preferred to be called Salah Ibn Albadya) was "an integrative artist: he sings love lyric and lyric in praise of Prophet Mohammad and acts and writes ."

"Inside him was the casualty, truthfulness and humility of a villager who delved into the city from a wide door," said Dafalla, recalling Salah's early songs: Alawsafoak (those who described you), Ghannaita Lilsittat (I sang for the ladies) Khatmi (my ring) and Fitna (infatuation).

Salah's first experience with the stage was in 1959 (before he was accredited as a singer by the Radio of Sudan). In that gala, and at the order of the revelers he was accredited a singer, before he would attend the interview of the formal committee that endorses new singers.

He teamed up with lyric composer, poet, Mohammad Yousif Musa for whom he sang: Husnak Amar (your beauty has ordered), Fat Alawan (it is too late) and others. He also performed songs written by other outstanding lyric writers: Alsadiq Alyas, Hashim Siddiq, Taj Alsir Abbas and many other lyric writers.

"Salah was endowed with a distinct talent in melody that helped him establish his own singing school. Throughout his singing career, Salah would rarely seek another melodist and, further, he helped other singers with melodies. Examples of this were the songs: Tair Alrahaw (demoiselle crane bird) performed by Hamad Alrayyah and Hub Alnas (the love of people) performed by Alamin Abderghaffar," says Dafalla.

Salah Ibn Albadya had a passion for drama since his early childhood. He always dreamt of becoming an actor. This dream was fulfilled in his role in the films Rihlat Oyoon (Eyes Journey) he starred with leading Egyptian actors, his role in the film: Tajooj Walmahallag (a historical romantic tragedy) and Toar Aljar Fi Almania ( Toar Aljar in Germany), performed with Mahmood Hummaida (a stereotype actor who used to mimic a backward villager visiting a city for the first time.

Salah was also a poet and a writer with insights in the country's heritage of poetry and adages. In this he has a written book on Sudanese adages, which is yet to be published.

His songs gained wide fame at both the domestic and regional levels. He developed a wide fan base in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Chad, Eritrea and some Arab states. At a tip from writer, broadcaster, novelist, Tayeb Salih, Salah's voice became familiar to listeners of the BBC Arabic Service.

In a Sufi costume

Former Vice President of Southern Sudan Riek Machar once recalled that they in the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) had once planned to attack a steamer on the White Nile, but when they learned that Salah was on board, they ditched the idea for their love for the artist "because we viewed Salah as a national wealth that can benefit Sudan."

Salah had respected his art. His humane and moral personality were both derived from the religious environment he grew up in.

His home village 'Abugroon' was always a fountain of creativity in both Sufi (mystic) and romantic poetry. Abugroon was also associated with other neighboring villages that also saw the birth of some creative artists. One of these was lyric writer Alsadiq Alyas who composed a number of Salah's songs. Those villages had also endowed Sudan with distinguished singers Sayyid Khalifa, Ahmed Almustafa and many others.

Salah was very loyal to and respectful of his religious environment. It was for that reason that he picked the fame name 'Salah

Starring in film Tajouj

Ibn Albadya', instead of his original name Salih Aljaily Abugroon. He did not want to offend his devout father and relatives who could not (at first) digest the idea of his becoming a singer.

But this religious background had helped Salah's artistic performance with a lot of simplicity and beauty that quickly endeared him to the public.

Artist Salah was a bulwark, a reference for many young artists because of his rich experiment and his distinct melody. He has 117 songs recorded in the Sudan Radio and Sudan TV.

He was also recently among a group of artists that led an initiative to seal the void between the military and the leaders of the revolution. On that occasion he said "art is destined to play an important role in national causes."

Salah was a dedicated social figure. He was always present in national events and the private events of his family, friends and fans. It was for this sociability that thousands rushed to attend his funeral in his home village. Reports said the mourners ferried tons of food and drinks for the multitudes of mourners who gathered at his home village to see him buried.

In recognition of his creativity, former head of state Nimeiry awarded Salah the state's golden order in 1975.

But Artist Salah's art project was not completed. He was bent on the 'Ibn albadya Arts Academy' he established at the state containing art studios and a gala theatre. He had hoped to develop this Academy into a minaret for artists.

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