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'Amitabh Bachchan biggest star in Sudan'
By Sanjib K. Baruah, Indo-Asian News Service

New Delhi, Oct 30 (IANS) Members of a Sudanese cultural troupe touring India are surprised that Hindi film posters are not displayed on cars and at bus stops, as they are back home in Sudan.

"More than 90 percent of the films in cinema halls in Sudan screen Indian films. One hears Hindi film songs in the streets, inside the house -- everywhere. We grew up with films and songs from India," said Omar Ihsas, leader of the troupe.

"And if I meet Amitabh Bachchan here, I will request him to come to Sudan at least once. He is the biggest star in my country. There are very few who will not recognize him at first glance.

"Another film star I love is Shammi Kapoor, especially in 'Teesri Manzil'," said Ihsas, humming a song from the Hindi film.

"Very few people actually understand what the songs mean, nor do I. But then, as they say, music is universal."

Ihsas should know. He is a pioneer in the sense that he extracted tunes and rhythms from the more than 200-odd tribes in western Sudan, blended them with modern tunes and presented before the people a form of music that transcends the strict tribal and regional barriers in the 26 provinces of the strife-torn country in Africa.

"My songs are about love, peace and tradition", says Ihsas, whose troupe has toured many countries like Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Turkey, Chad, Italy, Syria, and is on its first tour to India.

The group has already performed in Delhi, Noida, Mussoorie, Dehradun and Kullu.

Said Omar Kafi, the lead guitarist, impressed with what India had to offer: "Everyone says Egypt is the cradle of civilization. I say it is India that is the birthplace of civilisation. We know so much about India and its people that it is like coming back home."

On the response of the crowds in India, Ihsas said: "We did not come expecting so much. For people who do not know much about Sudan or its music, the response has been astounding. Something unseen ties the people of India with the Sudanese people."

"Even our music sounds similar. There is so much of similarity in our musical scales, rhythms and beats. To cite an instance, we were jamming together with the Indian group 'Silk Route' playing one of our numbers called 'Danuba'.

"The 'Silk Route' members suddenly realized that it was quite similar to one of their songs, so along the way we switched over to their version and then back to the Sudanese version. It is a very emotional thing for musicians - a feeling difficult to describe."

Asked if they planned to come back to India, Ihsas replied: "Not only coming back but we want it to happen very soon."

Indo-Asian News Service

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