Out of that chance meeting was born Otaak Band, the collaboration of Miguel Merino, from Indiana, USA, and Ahmed Said Abuamna from eastern Sudan. Ahmed Said is from the Beja, the indigenous community of south-easern Egypt, eastern Sudan, and western Eritrea. He is a master of the Beja’s traditional lyre, the masankop, and the rich, powerful vocal style typical of Beja music. Miguel is a drummer and composer who sought to bring together their two distant, but deeply connected, styles of music.
Otaak Band plays thousand-year-old traditional melodies, pop-rock songs, and everything in between, opening a direct link to the ancient past with a sound that's completely contemporary. Otaak Band's first full-length album of lyre music, Bejawiya, was released in April, 2012. The album features Miguel and Ahmed's unique combination of Beja singing and lyre playing with contemporary ensemble arrangments, and was funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign, conducted from Egypt, that gave international audiences the chance to get involved in the project, and gave them their first taste of Otaak Band's exciting and innovative sound.
Digital and hard copies of the album quickly began selling online from the United States to China, and the band sent CDs, t-shirts, posters, and personalized songs with Beja lyrics to the fans who had donated through Kickstarter.
In the summer of 2013, after Miguel had returned to the United States to pursue more opportunities for the group, he and Ahmed reached out again to the Otaak fans to help raise the money to bring Ahmed to the States for a tour. They ran another successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for his visa and travel, and by December Ahmed was in Bloomington, Indiana to begin rehearsals with Miguel and other local musicians.
The band visited six cities in January and February 2014, performing at renowed venues around the country like the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis, and the Berklee College of Music in Boston. A concert DVD from Otaak's performance at the Old Town School was released in October 2014, and in that same month Otaak was honored to a featured performer at the TEDxIndianapolis event, where Miguel and Ahmed performed and spoke about the band's mission to raise cultural awareness and create connections through music.
Otaak Band is a complete musical and educational ensemble, 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 interactive workshops and presentations on rhythm and dance, Beja society and culture, traditional arts and crafts, and building and playing the masankop. The band has appeared at concert halls, cultural centers, public schools and libraries, art galleries, and a variety of community events.
11/15/2014 - Bloomington, IN - Player's Pub
10/21/14 - Indianapolis, IN - TEDxIndianapolis
10/19/14 - Bloomington, IN - Player's Pub
10/18/14 - Urbana, IL - Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
10/17/14 - Indianapolis, IN - Jazz Kitchen
02/5/14 - Providence, RI - Laurelmead Retirement Community
02/3/14 - Boston, MA - Berklee College of Music
1/30/14 - Chicago, IL - 32Forty!
1/29/14 - Minneapolis, MN - Cedar Cultural Center
1/26/14 - Bloomington, IN - The Player's Pub
1/24/14 - Bloomington, IN - WFHB Community Radio
1/23/14 - Bloomington, IN - PBS/WTIU Bloomington, "The Weekly Special"
1/22/14 - Bloomington, IN
- Clear Creek Elementary School
- Emeriti House, Indiana Univeristy
1/18/14 - Indianapolis, IN - Jiallo's African Cuisine
1/16/14 - Chicago, IL - Northside College Prep High School
1/15/14 - Chicago, IL
- WBEZ Chicago "The Morning Shift" w/ Tony Sarabia
- Old Town School of Folk Music