Stepping onto stage in Khartoum and launching into their first song, The Nightingales – Sudan’s best-loved girl band – still raise cheers from adoring fans, 45-years after their debut.
Sisters Amal, Hadia and Hayat Talsam were known in their 1970s heyday as the “Sudanese Supremes” with their stylish bobs, matching dresses and soulful ballads, which changed the image of female artists in Sudan forever.
Their outfits have changed a bit since – at the January concert in Khartoum, the sisters appeared in long robes and loose headscarves – but the audience’s adoration has only increased.
Their vintage brand of Sudanese pop, songs of longing and youth blending elements of folk music aim to show the world another side to Sudan.
“We want to travel the globe and offer our art to all the peoples of the world,” Amal said after the concert, sitting beside her sisters.
“We could show a beautiful side of Sudan to the outside world” added Hadia, the oldest of the three. Although they haven’t got round to planning their global tour just yet.
The vibrant but conservative 70s
The Nightingales were formed in 1971, when a family friend visited their home in Omdurman – Khartoum’s twin city – to ask their father if he could pick three of his seven daughters to perform one of his songs.
Hadia and Amal returned the following year and organised a concert with Hayat at the officers’ club in central Khartoum.
They were apprehensive, unsure whether their fans would remember them, but on arrival, the streets were jammed with expectant fans.
“The only thing that changed was they liked us much more,” Amal said.
Now, the Nightingales tour Sudan when they are all in the country together, drawing hundreds of fans of all ages to their shows.
They still sing in matching outfits, with performances punctuated by mid-set costume changes – and a quick cigarette break.
Amal, Hadia and Hayat are now confident they can win more fans abroad and are keen to arrange their tour.
Would the comparison with the Supremes help draw foreign crowds in?
“Honey, we’re better than the Supremes,” Amal shot back in American-accented English.