Otaak Band is the collaboration between Miguel Merino, from Indiana, and Ahmed Said Abuamna, from eastern Sudan, who met in 2009 in Cairo. Abuamna is from the Beja, who are the indigenous people from the region between the Nile and the Red Sea in northern Sudan and southern Egypt, and a master of the Beja’s traditional lyre, the masankop.
In April 2012, after three years of collaboration, Merino and Abuamna recorded their first album of lyre music, Bejawiya, all with words in the Beja language. The band played several concerts in Cairo in support of the album’s release and received a fantastic response from audiences all over the city.
The lyre is at the forefront of this contemporary ensemble. Otaak Band plays thousand-year-old traditional melodies, pop/rock songs, and everything in between. The band opens a direct link to the ancient past while creating a sound that's completely contemporary.
Otaak Band is dedicated to preserving the Beja culture and language, while breaking new musical ground through its innovative use of the masankop, one of the world's oldest instruments. In addition to concerts, the band conducts workshops and presentations on rhythm and dance, Beja society and culture, traditional arts and crafts, and building and playing the masankop.
Starting in January 2014, Otaak Band will be on tour through the Midwest, bringing this multifaceted educational and cultural experience to an international audience for the first time. Video footage from this tour, along with over 30 hours of footage from the band's three years in Egypt,
will be used in a forthcoming documentary of the Otaak Band story.