One day in 1999, Alex Sabac el Cher, a retired German textile salesman opened his door to a historian who had a painting to show him and a few questions. Preußisches Liebesglück ("Prussian love bliss"), a 1890 painting of two lovebirds, an African officer of the German imperial army and his young red-headed bride, was perhaps an allegory of (color-)blind love, but also an actual moment of happiness in the Sabac el Cher family history, that started in 1836 with the gift of a young Nubian boy nicknamed August "Good morning" to an exiled princely murderer and became interwoven with German history. Bonus: First 10 minutes (in French) of a documentary about the Sabac el Cher.
Hamza el Din, hailed as "the father of Nubian music," has died. El Din's death has not yet been reported in the news, but I'm told he passed away from complications of brain surgery. It's a great loss for music lovers all over the world. "Escalay," performed on oud with the Kronos Quartet on their album Pieces of Africa, is probably his best-known work, but "Ollin Arageed," his haunting piece for handclaps and tar -- a goatskin drum -- was played numerous times onstage with the Grateful Dead, who championed el Din's music and jammed with him at the Great Pyramid in 1978. Eclipse provides an excellent introduction to his work, the ethereal sounds of one of the oldest continuously-inhabited regions on the planet. In the 1960s, el Din's own home village in Egypt was drowned underwater by the construction of the Aswan Dam, as archeologists tried to save what they could.