Back to the future: Sudanese CCP alumnus produces music video for a traditional nursery rhyme

"Music videos provide a great opportunity to make our enormous wealth of traditional folk music more accessible to young people", says CrossCulture alumnus and filmmaker Mohamed Emugtaba Aamir from Sudan. It is an opportunity and at the same time a challenge, as the number of well-produced music videos that have been made in Africa's third largest country is almost non-existent.

"When we first took the boys to the studio to record their performances, I could really see the joy in their eyes", remembers Mohamed Emugtaba Aamir. (Fotos: M.Aamir)
After the recordings in the studio, the actual film shooting began. No easy task, says Aamir: "In order to film school kids, you need to hold extensive talks to the school administration and the kids' parents".
Mohamed Emugtaba Aamir (left) was lucky to have strong support from Othman Elnaw (musician and composer, middle) and co-director Mohamed Fawi (right).

For centuries, Sudan has been the crossroads between North, East and Southern Africa. Over 500 different ethnic groups, predominantly Arabs and African Muslims, live in this huge country to the south of Egypt. In spite of the many geopolitical and sociopolitical challenges that it has faced over the years, the country can look back on a rich history of traditional and regional music.

Mohamed Emugtaba Aamir sees it as his personal mission to preserve and translate this cultural legacy. Aamir describes the situation in his country, by saying: “Very few songs have ever had music videos. This is a major problem, as we are now living in a very visual age. The only way children and teenagers in Sudan will ever learn to love our musical history is through music videos that can be shared online.”


The future is digital


As a “digital native”, 29-year-old Mohamed Emugtaba Aamir knows what he’s talking about. For the last five years, the young journalist has been active as a freelance editor, screenwriter and filmmaker – working for daily newspapers and the Goethe Institute in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. His social engagement led Aamir to being awarded a CrossCulture internship in 2013, and it also inspired him to initiate a new project called “Tree Climber”. He looks back at his early plans for the project: “With the help of ifa, I wanted to create an inspirational music video aimed specifically at children and teenagers. The idea was to inspire viewers to get creative and produce their own clips.”

Yesterday’s music – tomorrow’s trees

By selecting the music for the video, the filmmaker opted for a classic from his own childhood: “Tree Climber”, a song that is about simple childhood dreams of a better future for everyone. A tight project schedule running from October to December 2016 included casting school students and singers, selecting musicians, and making a professional recording in a sound studio. Only when the nursery rhyme had been recorded to Aamir’s complete satisfaction the filming of the video itself could begin.  All these efforts really paid off, as the result was a four-minute video, with students aged between 12 and 15 playing the main roles.

During the producing process of the film, Mohamed Emugtaba Aamir was able to rely on the support of two of his friends and colleagues. “The goals we set ourselves were not always easy to achieve”, says Aamir. “Filming the video with the students and teachers required a great deal of coordination and perserverance. But it was worth it in the end! For me personally, this was a wonderful opportunity to follow a project through from concept to finished product.”

The creative head behind "Tree Climber": Mohamed Emugtaba Aamir

About the Filmmaker

Mohamed Emugtaba Aamir (29) holds a B.Sc. in Communications and Engineering from the University of Khartoum. Especially in the fields of media and journalism, he gained a lot of experiences: he worked as a journalist at a Sudanese newspaper and produced various documentary films, for example in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut Khartum. From September until November 2013, he did his CrossCulture internship at Deutsche Welle TV in Berlin and later committed himself as a ifa Country Representative in Sudan. As a youth ambassador for the Arab Thought Foundation he could deepen his knowledge of politics, civil society movements and cultures.

Credits “Tree Climber”

Directed by: Mohamed Emugtaba Aamir & Mohamed Fawi.
Editor/Assistant Director: Ahmed Shaweesh.
Lyrics: Abdel wahab Hillawi.
Composer: Othman El Naw.
Performance: Al Mahdiya School Band In association with members of: Rai Musical Group

The “Tree Climber” project was funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.