Saturday, August 18, 2007
Al-Bilabil, "Al-byis'al mâ bitûh"
Here's a song from the great Sudanese female vocal trio (composed of three sisters) called al-Bilabil ("The Nightingales.") The title of the track (which seems to be a live recording) is "Al-byis'al mâ bitûh," and it's from a cassette I purchased in Cairo in the early nineties, from a cassette shop near the downtown Post Office, near Ezbekiyya, that specializes in Sudanese and Nubian music. The cassette title is simply al-Bilabil. There are several Bilabil videos available on youtube, including one in black-and-white of them performing this song (it tells us that the lyrics are by Ishaq al-Halnaqi and the music by Bashir 'Abbas). And there is this great one in color, of them performing "Al-sahr al-layl," apparently in 1974. Two of the three members of al-Bilabil, Amal and Hadia Abdelmageed, performed at the Sudanese Music and Dance Festival in Central Park on July 22.
I can only find fragments of information about al-Bilabil, who have been described as Sudan's version of The Supremes during the 70's and 80's. Here's a sketch from Sudan Reports, which I believe is lifted from The Rough Guide to World Music Vol. 1 (1999):
"In the early 1980s [sic, 1970's] three gifted teenage Nubian sisters with a supportive father formed the group Balabil. Trained by oud player and songwriter Bashir Abbas, who also found lyricists and musicians for them, they found an avid audience around the Horn of Africa. In the uncertain climate of Sudan's sharia law, however, their yearning undertones were sometimes sufficiently sensuous to get them banned from television.
Balabil got back together for the first time in ten years to play in Eritrea in 1997 - and made a recording for Rags Music - and Hadia Talsam, the ablest sister, has made a solo album in Cairo entitled Kul' al-Nujum ("All the Stars"), on the Hassad label."