Monday, July 12, 2004

A new song in my mouth

Nyala’s Journal, a column in the New York Times, has an article about the role of female troubadours in the genocide taking place in Darfur.

The women singers, called hakamah, improvise their words and melodies as they sing, giving inspiration and solace to their audiences. The songs deal with various life events as well as war and bravery. But several hakamah have come to realize that their songs have given courage and zeal to the Arab militiamen who are driving the violence in Darfur.
Until recently, Fatima Mohamed Sanusi was one of those who used her melodious voice to stir up ferocity in the Arab militiamen. She is a hakamah, a traditional Sudanese singer, and war songs are just a small part of a repertory that includes songs of love, mourning and celebration. [S]he has sung of bravery and strength. She has sung of the need to stick up for the tribe. She has sung of the courageousness of past generations.

Her songs, and those of other hakamah, have had their intended effect ... After so much bloodshed, Ms. Sanusi and some of the other hakamah in Darfur say they [wish] they could take back their songs.

What is interesting in this story is that the women, realizing the power that they have to inspire action and comment on events, have decided to use their songs to criticize the actions of the Arab militiamen:
"My authority in the tribe is indirect," said Ms. Sanusi ... "I sit in the tribe and watch the people. If someone does something wrong, I say a poem about it. I change his attitude. If someone is not generous, if he keeps all his money to himself, I'll say something. If someone is not brave in war, I'll say something about him."

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