Sudanese Military Jalalat & Marches

By: Mohammed Osman

Khartoum, (Sudanow) - Like other armies in the world, the Sudanese army employs military marches to raise soldiers' morale, heighten their enthusiasm for confronting hardships, attending the training eagerly and controlling their parades. The marches also constitute a military tradition that must be observed, like the trumpeter who announces the start of the programmes of the day and the national anthem on formal occasions.

Yet the music and songs of the Sudanese military marches depict other dimensions that demonstrate that the ethnic diversity is not necessarily evil but is rather, a melting pot of all cultures of the Sudan and which bring together all components of the Sudanese people.

These marches are made up of the folkloric rhythms and songs of the various ethnic groups and manifest the values, love for the homeland and heroism and include anthems of religious sects which aim at spreading Islam and expulsion of the colonial power. In fact this might be one of the reasons explaining fondness by the people of the marches and growing tendency for inviting the military music troupes to private parties, including weddings and graduation ceremonies.
main picture for marches and jallalat story

In an effort for conservation of the solely heritage of the military establishment, retired Major Ali Yagoub Kabashi wrote a documentary book titled “the Sudanese Military Jalalat and Marches” a copy of which was kindly presented to SUDANOW by the War Museum.

The author, Major Ali Yagoub Kabashi, persistently served in the Military Music Corps till he was promoted to the post of commander of the Military Music School in the period 1992-96 during which he devoted his efforts for boosting the school, documenting the music and qualifying personnel for leading the Music Corps.

Major Kabashi says Sudanese army military music was introduced during the Turkish and British colonial eras when the Sudanese learned from the colonialists how to play and write music and they excelled in the job. The aim of the colonizers was entertainment of their troops in addition to the military training and for this reason their teaching of the Sudanese was confined to reading and playing music only in the Western style, ignoring the musical curricula, something which contributed to the lack of documentation.

However, the concern by the local commanders of the Sudan Defense Force with the Sudanese identity prompted them into innovating a method for writing folkloric songs which march elements of powerful and uniformed rhythms by listening to the song from its source, whether a musical instrument or a human voice and then they write the transmitted sounds, using the Sudanese mandolin which represent the five-tone scale that is common to most of the Sudanese tribes, instead of the Scottish bagpipe instrument, incurring the required tuning. The personnel of the Musical Corps also play their Jalalat on their private occasions; making many of them leant by heart.

The colonialists used to recruit the Sudanese according to their tribes for facilitating their command. This brought the folkloric songs of different tribes to the training camps, giving rise to the Jalalat. This word, Jalalat, is the Arabic plural of Jalalah, equivalent to glory, a name attributable to Allah (God) borrowed from the Sufi sects that used to organize rounds of glorification of God and religious singing in which they repeatedly utter the name of the Glorious God.

One of the first written marches was “La Ilah Illa Allah, Mohammad Rasool Allah” (There is No God but Allah and Mohammad is God’s Prophet) as Jalalat. The author classified the Jalalat into six types, including those of a religious nature, others of local dialects, Jalalat of the training centers, others composed by military musicians, the Sudanese Infantry Battalion marches and military marches which were originally folkloric songs.
An example of the religious Jalalat is the Ansar which consist of anthems uttered by the adherents of Imam Mohamed Ahmed al-Mahdi during battles and assemblies where they repeat the name of the Jalalah (Allah), including “Daym Allah” (Eternal is Allah) Jalalah which was composed by the Music Corps of the Sudan Defense Force, “Wad al-Sherif” Jalalah which was authored by female folklore singer (Hakkamah) from Darfur lampooning a commander who ran away from the battleground. This type also includes Jalalat taken from the Khatmiyah (Mirghani) and other Sufi sects.

Discussing the Jalalat of the local dialects, Major Kabashi says this type has kindled the nationalistic spirit during colonization because of its nationalistic implications and elements of March, collective singing and uniformed rhythms. This made the Sudan Defense Forces personnel write those Jalalat, marking the start of writing the Sudanese folklore song.


Another example is the “Shulukawe 1” March the words of which were written in 1886 by the Ruth of the Shuluk tribe of South Sudan who joined the Mahdist army and named Prince Koor Abdul Fadeel . The song is sung by the tribe youth in their happy occasions. Another example is Salara Nubians March; its word dated back to 1917 when Sultan Ajabna fought the British colonizers who attempted to occupy the Salara region in the Nuba Mountain and they killed him. His daughter Mandy took up arms in the face of the colonialists and the tribe composed the song in the Nubian language lamenting her father and encouraging her.

There is also the Dinka Jalalat which extolled the peace agreement which was concluded in 1973 during the regime of late President Gaafer Nimery. One of its parts says the Sudan is vast with abundant wealth and wondering why its sons fight each other.

The Training Centers Marches consist of a very large numbers of Jalalat and songs as the soldiers come to the centers conveying special songs of their different tribes and they chant with them during the training and, moreover, they compose new Jalalat. However, failure of recording resulted in the loss of the majority of those Jalalat, though, the most famous of them among the public is the “Ana Mashy Nyala” (I’m going to Nyala- one of Darfur major towns) which was composed in 1989 in Fattashah Combat Training Center, the harshest training style.

The author then reviewed a number of Marches composed by military musicians on different occasions like the petroleum discovery. Then he cited examples of the Marches of the seven Sudanese battalions each of which has a special musical band. Kabashi, in conclusion, reviewed Marches which were originally folklore melodies of no identified words and some of the military men wrote words suitable to them.

الازهرى والمحجوب يرفعان علم الاستقلال فى 1/1/1956- صورة ابيض واسود من الارشيف
الازهرى والمحجوب يرفعان علم الاستقلال فى 1/1/1956- صورة ابيض واسود من الارشيف

At the end of his work, the author listed names of pioneer military musicians, including Colonel Ahmed Morgan Mohamed, a well remembered Sudanese musician as well who hailed from the Nuba Mountains areas of western Sudan, and who was the first Sudanese maestro of the military music after the departure of the British rulers, Lt. Col. Abdul Gadir Abdul Rahman, the Police music band founder, Lt. Col. Awad Mahmud who composed numerous national songs and anthems and General Jaafer Fadul Moula, who was the first administrative commander to assume the command of the Armed Forces Music corps which became an independent unit in 1969.

Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


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