|Wardi in young age, ca 1960|
Mohamed Osman Wardi, one of Sudan's greatest singers, passed away this day in a Khartoum hospital. Born in 1932 Wardi gave up a typical effendi career as a school teacher and dedicated himself to music since an early age. His voice was heard on Radio Omdurman for the first time in 1957. Like many of his contemporaries he was attracted by the avant-garde motifs of the Sudanese left and became associated with its politics. A song that he performed in celebration of Sudan's independence became a symbol of the day and the age. He sang to praise the 1964 October Revolution and was incarcerated by Colonel Nimayri in the anti-communist purge that followed the 1971 coup attempt. Wardi, in partnership with the poet Mahjoub Sharif, immortalized the experience in a number of prison songs. When Nimayri was deposed in the 1985 Uprising Wardi again gave the event a tenor and a meaning in his songs. Like many others he chose exile to life under the regime of President Bashir. Wardi returned to Sudan in 2003. By that time he had developed renal failure, the condition that ended his life.
The man will be missed by admirers in his country Sudan as well as the region. His legacy however extends beyond music. As a pupil in an Omdurman primary school I heard Wardi's 'revolutionary' songs and Nasser's Suez Canal speech through crackling loudspeakers almost daily. This routine was the entertainment that the headmaster, Mr Hassan Salim, chose for us during free hours. For the child I was, Wardi's lyrics were probably a primer in political education.