AlKabli was born in the city of Port Sudan in 1933. During childhood, he developed an interest in the Arabic language, especially the old Arabic poems, and learned to play music on a penny whistle. At the age of sixteen, he moved to Khartoum to attend the Khartoum Commercial Secondary School. His musical interest evolved to oud (lute), which he learnt by himself.
Giant of modern Sudanese music, Abdel Karim AlKabli is a poet, composer, and folklorist who plays the oud (lute) with deceptive ease and whose deep melodious voice embraces both classical and Arabic styles. Talented in his own right as a lyricist, he has also set classical poetry to music and delved into the treasury of folk songs of North, East and Central Sudan, fascinated by the diversity of rhythm and melody to be found in Africa’s largest country. In the 35 years since his first concert appearance - when he sang the "Song for Asia and Africa" at the National Theatre in Omdurman in honor of President Nasser of Egypt - Al Kabli has become a walking encyclopedia of his country's musical heritage.
ALKabli was born in Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast, moving to Khartoum at the age of 16 to attend Khartoum Commercial Secondary School. He taught himself first the penny whistle and then the oud (lute). His first employment was in the clerical section of the judiciary where he became ‘courts inspector’. After early successes in the 1960s, he went to live in Saudi Arabia for a few years in the late 1970s. Having found financial security but little creative impulse he returned to Sudan, his primary source of inspiration.
Kabli, a superstar of Sudanese modern music and songs, established himself as such since the 1960s. His musical talents showed up at a very early age when he was a junior school student. He soon mastered playing the lute (Oud - strings/ melody/ percussion central instrument in Sudanese music) and used to the best his deep melodious voice to create a solid base of local fans.
Kabli's advanced degree of self-education and personal cultural background distinguished him among other local and regional musicians as to the lyrics he writes or selects to perform. He does not restrict himself to Sudanese colloquial wordings of rhythm. This pushed his popularity farther outside Sudan to many Arab and African countries. The larger part of more than a hundred songs he produced seems too familiar to an audience of different cultural Afro-Arab and middle Eastern background.
Again, he is not restricted in theme, to love songs, a practice that dominated the musical scene. His repertoire included songs related to social and political realities whether these are Sudanese or of a more extensive and human nature. The echoes of his "Song for Asia and Africa" constituted part of the inspiration during the decades of liberation and the calls for peace and development in these continents. He sang for the causes of women, children and youth, and for the causes of piece and prosperity of human beings and the world nation, adopting distinctive approach of simple ordinary persons, especially the women and youth, of rural areas.
His profound interest in Arabic classical poetry and literature at large inspired him to study spoken and oral poetry in many Parts of Sudan. As a result of his research into oral poetry, he succeeded in bringing to life some of the most forgotten folk songs in Northern Sudan. He collected his information through interviews, field recordings, and through reading old manuscripts to get to the original texts and melodies. Then he used to reintroduce these songs in his distinctive style that turned them into hits amongst his listeners. And in spite of his continuous efforts to bring the old forms to the artistic temperament of the new generation, he kept preaching about the vital importance of preserving and keeping these original old forms for future musicians and researchers.
Today Kabli is looked upon as an outstanding Sudanese musician and as an artist whose efforts and contributions have helped to preserve a very important literary and musical heritage of Sudan. In this context, he visited many countries and lectured at many Universities, Institutes, and Cultural Organizations about Sudanese music and folklore in both Arabic and English.
Alkali was rewarded inside Sudan by honorary doctorates from Nyala University and Sudan University.
As regards his response to the award of the Doctorate of Arts from the Sudanese Nyala University, Kabli pointed out "Yes, I am pleased with such honour. Though I was born at Port Sudan town, in the farthest eastern Sudan, I have been honoured by Nyala University at the farthest western Sudan. This is what I have been calling for when I used to talk over three decades about diversity and variety of the nature of the Sudanese people and the importance of belonging to one colourful country, because the geographical boundaries ought not to be prohibitive and should never rob us of our affection".
His role in rediscovering and collecting Sudanese folklore has since brought invitations to lecture at academic institutions and perform at cultural events in many countries. Although like most Sudanese singers his songs are mainly about love, his lyrics increasingly tackle issues of social and human concern. He lives in Khartoum with his wife and five children.
Once a journalist asked him, "In life and of all people, whom do you value and respect most?". He answered, "I respect all the universal creation because I am a good believer in one merciful and beautiful God and regarding people I value those charitable morality lovers who give more than they take, those kind-hearted people".
AlKabli's songs contain a diversity of topics and scenes including love, passion, revolution, nationalism and Sudanese folklore. Some of his songs are old Arabic poems that can be comprehended by Arabic linguists. Others are in old Sudanese Arabic dialect that might require deep knowledge of the language and customs.
Some of his songs include "Ya Bint Ashreen" (O that Girl in her twenties), "Sukar Sukar" (Sugar Sugar), "Asia wa Africa" (Asia and Africa), "Noama", "Cleopatra", "Limaza" (Why ?), and "Merowi".
AlKabli has been very active in peace and reconciliation efforts in Darfur and South Sudan and through his music and his social influence as constantly stressed the richness of the ethnic diversity in the country. In 2005, he joined with other well-known artists and musicians and travelled to South Darfur during the 16 Days of Activism against Violence Against Women where he performed in camps for the internally displaced and in the Nyala stadium. His music and his poetry has focussed on women's equality and women's health over the past decade. He is an honorary Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund.Contributing artistThe Rough Guide to the Music of North Africa (1997, World Music Network)On May 12, 2002, AlKabli was awarded an honorary doctorate in literature from Nyala University, Nyala, SudanWon the Gold Award at the hands of Algerian President Abdelaziz BouteflikaOn October 7, 2004, he was awarded the UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador for Obstetric Fistula in Sudan for his advocacy for women health, gender equality and human rights.In January 2008, he was awarded the second honorary doctorate in music and arts from Sudan University.