The Song Capturing The Heart Of Sudan's Protest Movement Some of Sudan's biggest protests in decades are demanding that President Omar al-Bashir step down. A song written for an earlier time of discord has emerged as the protesters' anthem.
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The Song Capturing The Heart Of Sudan's Protest Movement

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The Song Capturing The Heart Of Sudan's Protest Movement

The Song Capturing The Heart Of Sudan's Protest Movement

The Song Capturing The Heart Of Sudan's Protest Movement

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Some of Sudan's biggest protests in decades are demanding that President Omar al-Bashir step down. A song written for an earlier time of discord has emerged as the protesters' anthem.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

For more than two months now, protests have raged in Sudan. People are calling for an end to the three-decade rule of President Omar al-Bashir. The anthem of their moment is a song written for an earlier time of discord. NPR's Eyder Peralta has the story.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Everyone was stunned when the late, great Sudanese singer Mohammed Wardi brought a new song to a performance space at the Hague. It usually took Wardi years to compose a song. Yet, this one he'd written quickly.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOHAMMED WARDI SONG, "SURRENDER")

PERALTA: He played "Surrender." It was simple, a plaintive song that obviously tied directly to his own life. Wardi was exiled from Sudan after Omar al-Bashir took over after a military coup in 1989. To Mostapha Sid Ahmed, a Sudanese music fan whose father was an exiled opposition leader, this was a song ahead of its time.

MOSTAPHA SID AHMED: It was talking about freedom, about a dictator who should surrender and give everything back to the people

PERALTA: This was 1997. President Bashir was just eight years into power. So Wardi sang the song just a few times in concert and only left this ragged recording.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SURRENDER")

MOHAMMED WARDI: (Singing in Arabic).

PERALTA: But over the decades, the lyrics stuck in Sid Ahmed's head. And he couldn't help but think about the song these past two months as he watched young people take to the streets demanding democracy and accountability, demanding a better life and facing off with security forces.

SID AHMED: So it came back to my mind that, like, this is exactly what he described.

PERALTA: Sid Ahmed, a businessman in Dubai, called his sister, Zoozita, and one of Wardi's old guitarists, all of them in exile in the UAE. And he got them together in a studio. He played them the old song and told them it was time to contribute to the protest movement.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOHAMMED WARDI SONG, "SURRENDER")

PERALTA: He told them...

WARDI: Your guitar is your weapon. Your voice is your weapon. And that's what could reach the whole world, not just the people inside.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SURRENDER")

ZOOZITA: (Singing in Arabic).

PERALTA: The song is a classic protest anthem. The waves are coming for you. The people are marching, and they are saying selim, surrender.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SURRENDER")

ZOOZITA: (Singing in Arabic).

PERALTA: Zoozita, the singer, says what came out of her was pain and hope - pain for all the people who have been killed in clashes with security forces, but hope that maybe all of this will make a difference.

ZOOZITA: We've seen many videos of people get shot in the head and in the chest. And you feel people are - they are not afraid of anything.

PERALTA: The song mirrors that sentiment. It begins with mournful verses, but it builds into a fearless confrontation with a dictator.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SURRENDER")

ZOOZITA: (Singing in Arabic).

PERALTA: Surrender - surrender our power, our books, our lights, our mosques and give us back our heritage.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SURRENDER")

ZOOZITA: (Singing in Arabic).

PERALTA: But the last time this song was released, it made no difference. President Omar al-Bashir was charged with genocide by the International Criminal Court for ordering the massacre of his own people in Darfur, yet he has remained in power. Zoozita says this time it feels different. It's not just the song but the thousands of young people - the women, the poor, the professionals - who have taken to the streets, saying enough is enough.

ZOOZITA: This time there are many things that tells you that a change is going to happen.

PERALTA: As the song warns, Bashir's time is over.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SURRENDER")

ZOOZITA: (Singing in Arabic).

PERALTA: He has nowhere left to run, she sings. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SURRENDER")

ZOOZITA: (Singing in Arabic).

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