Otaak Band is the collaboration of Miguel Merino, from Indiana, USA, and Ahmed Said Abuamna from Eastern Sudan, who met in 2009 in Cairo. Ahmed Said is from the Beja, who are the indigenous people of 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, they 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.
Never before has the lyre been at the forefront of a contemporary ensemble and been used as a complete musical instrument. Otaak Band plays thousand-year-old traditional melodies, pop-rock songs, and everything in between. Otaak 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.
In January and February 2014 Otaak Band brought this multi-faceted educational and cultural experience to an international audience for the first time on a tour of six US cities. 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, as well as a concert DVD from the band's performance at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, IL.