When the Sudanese Revolution of 2019 erupted, UAE based Sudanese musician Azhar Abulhassan Mustafa alias Zoozita revived a track that resonated well in the streets of Khartoum: ‘سلم مفاتيح البلد‘ (‘Surrender‘ or ”Hand over the keys to the country‘). The track was originally written and performed by the Nubian artist Muhammad Wardi (1932-2012), a Sudanese music legend who fought for justice and democracy. He was jailed for his political activism and forced into exile in 1989, where he continued his musical career. He never released the track ‘سلم مفاتيح البلد’ but thanks to Youtube we can can listen to one of the rare recordings below.
Zoozita’s brother, Mostapha Sid Ahmed, listened to the original track and encouraged his sister and one of Wardi’s old guitarists to record the song again. In an interview with NPR’s Eyder Peralta he remembered saying to them: ‘Your guitar is your weapon. Your voice is your weapon. And that’s what could reach the whole world, not just the people inside.’ Zoozita was motivated by the developments in Sudan: ‘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.‘ At both times, 1997 and 2019, the song was addressed to the government of Omar Al-Bashir. In 2019, the Sudanese people succeeded and the government ‘handed over the keys‘, although the situation still remains fragile.
Acknowledging the political and economical grievances that led to the uprising in Sudan, one can imagine why the Sudanese people easily connected to Wardi’s lyrics – even in 2019:
“عليك الزحف متقدم / The march is advancing on you
وليك الشعب متحزم ومتلملم / You have a people that is assembled and determined
يقول سلم / Saying “hand them over” …
سلم مفاتيح البلد / Hand over the keys to the country
تراث أجدادنا سلمنا / Our forefathers’ heritage, hand it over
عقول أولادنا سلمنا / Our children’s minds, hand them over
بنادقنا اللي بتضربنا / Our guns that shoot us
الموجهة لصدورنا / And that are aimed at our chests
وبرضو حقتنا / Which are also our own …
سلمنا الزمان الضاع / Hand over the time that has been lost
وليل الغربة والأوجاع / Nights of exile and pain
أحزانا اللي عشناها / Sorrows we have lived
مع الوطن العزيز الجاع / With the noble nation that is hungry
سلم مفاتيح البلد / Hand over the keys to the country …”
Translation of the lyrics from Arabic to English provided by ArabicSonglyrics.
Muhammed Wardi *-* ‘سلم مفاتيح البلد‘ (Original Recording)