Sudan may not be popular for its music scene, but its most-loved girl band is looking to change that. One may be hard-pressed to describe the members of Al Balabil as girls; they debuted 45 years ago, after all. Al Balabil, The Nightingales, are a trio of sisters who started singing as a group in 1971. Back then, eldest sister Hadia Talsam was 17 years old, while Amal was 15 and Hayat 13.

 

As young teenagers, The Nightingales toured Sudan with then President Jafer al-Nimeiri, who was supportive of the arts and culture. They sang, and still sing, a brand of Sudanese pop that blends traditional folk music. The Nightingales’ music is more traditional in style than that of other female artists that came after them.

 

 

The Nightingales were the first girl group in Sudan, and they can be credited with changing the way Sudanese people viewed women as singers and performers. Their family faced criticism due to their stage and televised performances from elements who disapproved of young girls singing and travelling on their own. Despite these conservative attitudes towards them, the Nightingales gained immense popularity, and by the 1980s had built a firm fan base.

 

 

However, that period where Sudanese arts thrived in popularity came to an end when the government adopted Sharia law. With the advent of the civil war and the 1989 coup that brought Omar al-Bashir into power, the music scene eventually hit a standstill. The Nightingales disbanded after one last concert in Khartoum in 1988. Now, they are back to performing as a group with more ambitious goals.

 

Frequently referred to as the “Sudanese Supremes,” Amal is quick to point out that The Nightingales are better than The Supremes as the latter never came to Sudan. The Nightingales currently tour Sudan together to packed audiences and want to take this abroad. The Nightingales want to travel the world, to Europe and the United States, in order to show people that Sudan has a beautiful side.

 

Have you ever heard the Nightingales? Would you make a trip to see them? Comment here or find me on Twitter @rafeeeeta