Loosening up the stiff crowd at Brooklyn Night Bazaar is no easy task–the distraction of shopping and drinking on top of the usual too-hip crossed arms of Williamsburg can be daunting. But on Saturday, Sinkane were able to crack the crowd’s façade with a galloping percussion and vibe that’s distinctly African. The guitar bends around its notes playfully. Enter the soothing vocals of the precipitator of this musical mélange: multi-instrumentalist composer and all round chill-dude, Ahmed Gallab.
Gallab’s defined by displacement. Leaving Sudan at age five, he attended high school in the small town of Kent, Ohio. From 13 he began spending his summer months back in the North African country of his birth. “I felt like I was living in two different places. It was hard to grasp at first but it really helped me understand who I am,” recalls Gallab a few days prior to taking the Brooklyn Night Bazaar stage.
Reconciling these two worlds wasn’t easy, and a young Gallab spent a large part of his high school years pretty pissed off. “No one was Sudanese or understood what it was like to be a foreigner in a foreign land.”
Years prior to the product of his circumstance heard before us today, Gallab sought solace in the age-old tradition of “a hardcore/punk phase.” “I was drawn to local bands in my city that were also frustrated with being ‘foreign’ in their own city. Punk really got me into playing music. The DIY nature of the music scene in Kent was important in how I now go about making my music now,” he reflects.
Earning his musical chops as touring drummer for Caribou,Of Montreal and upon arriving in New York City, Yeasayer, in 2007 Gallab began composing his own music under the name Sinkane–an aural representation of his journey to this point.
“With my music I want to be able to relate to people. First and foremost I want to be able to relate to other Sudanese people who’ve grown up in the United States,” he says. “A lot of us haven’t had the opportunity to connect with each other and have felt lost growing up.”
Midway through the set at Brooklyn Night Bazaar, hands dart up in response to Gallab’s call: “Who here’s from Sudan? What about East Africa?” It’s important for Gallab that Sinkane–not dissimilar in experience to his punk/hardcore days in the mid-west–offers an outlet to those seeking one.
This desire was embodied in last year’s release of aptly named Mars. “A big thing about Mars I wanted to establish was that there’s a place for us scattered people, us displaced youths that holds elements of who we are and where we come from. I want to continue establishing what that place is.”
If the new material from Saturday’s show is anything to go by, that place is a land of inspired musical influences coalescing in an exciting direction for Sinkane.
“I’ve found a very relatable idea between African music, reggae, country western and soul music. It’s the idea of longing and being oppressed or in a position of hardship–when you can genuinely relate to all that, you can see the idea those music’s share. For me, its interesting bringing the sonic representation of those feelings and melding them together.”