TARIG ABUBAKAR - CREATING PAN-AFRICAN MUSIC FROM SUDANESE BASE, GROWING UP IN KHARTOUM’S TOUGHEST ’HOOD, COMING TO CANADA WITH $10 + NOTHING ELSE (MF GALAXY 135)


THE KOREAN CONNECTION TO HIDING HIS MUSICAL TRAINING FROM PARENTS, THE NUBIAN SPIRIT TO SURVIVE AGAINST THE ODDS

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Today’s show lets me reach back into the archive for a conversation with a remarkable man who died far, far too young. That man was the Sudanese-Canadian musician, singer, lyricist, music producer, and band leader Tarig Abubakar.

Abubakar came to Canada in 1988 to build his fame and fortune in North America, and despite a rocky start he’ll tell you about in this episode, he formed his pan-African band the Afro-Nubians, toured the country four times, and delighted hundreds of audiences across Canada. He also released three superb albums: 1994’s Tour to Africa, 1995’s The Great Africans, and 1997’s Hobey Laik. His bandmates included guitarist Adam Solomon, Joe Slant, and Mohammed Hagelamin. Together they were named band of the year at the Toronto African Music Awards.

Tragically in 1998 while visiting his home country, Abubakar died in a car accident. He was only 34. In 2005, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation released a CD of two Afro-Nubians’ concerts. Thanks to streaming services, you can access some of the albums any time you want.

In the summer of 1995, I met Abubakar at Edmonton’s Mayfair Hotel the afternoon before his gig at the now-long-gone Sidetrack Café. We discussed:
  • How he create a trans-Atlantic new Pan-African music from a Sudanese base
  • Growing up in E-Dume Esh-Sharghia, better known as Dem, Khartoum’s toughest neighbourhood
  • The South Korean connection in becoming a musician and why he had to hide his training and career
  • Coming to Canada with $10 in his pocket and nothing else, and
  • The Nubian spirit to survive against the odds
On a personal note, twenty-two years ago when I recorded this interview, I was a young man who’d lost little in my life. I had no idea that Abubakar had only a few more years on this planet. In the decades since I’ve lost far more than I ever expected, including some of the most important people in my life. I’ve been producing today’s show over the last two days and hearing Abubakar’s voice and his stunning music from back before I lost all those people. And as it’s August 14, 2017, I’ve also been reacting to all the horrible news about the terrorist attack in Charlottesville and wondering about how we’re all going to defend ourselves, because it’s going to get worse, I’m sorry to say.

So hearing Abubakar and his ideas and his songs has been especially powerful. We lost him when he was too young and he had so much more to give, especially with his message of unity and his undying love of African peoples. I hope wherever he is, he knows we still remember his music and we still remember him.

James Hale's article on Tarig Abubakar + the Afro-Nubians
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