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Lyrical exorcism

Rango, the ancient Sudanese music of healing, is under threat from religious orthodoxy. But the musicians are fighting back

By Rachel Aspden   October 2009

In an upstairs apartment in the old Cairo district of Sayyida Zeinab, the last rango player in Egypt is invoking a murderous spirit. Hassan Bergamon, a gravely-voiced 60-year-old, wearing an embroidered prayer cap, is singing in a mixture of Arabic and a lost Sudanese tribal language called Rotana: “Yawra Bey, oh master, oh play with your sword my prince.”

Around him whirl percussionists playing goatskin drums, a metal block that looks like a stray piece of steel girder, and shakers made from recycled aerosol cans. One wears a mangor—a shaker-belt covered in hundreds of sundried goats’ hooves. The group’s official…

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