In the current world of extremes, Sinkane, born Ahmed Gallab, steps onto stage to calm your senses, engage in the now, and brighten the darkest of days. Step back to understand his roots and what they have grown to become, as its quite the underground ear opener. Sinkane, also the name of his six-piece band, will headline 89.1 FM Jackson Hole Community Radio’s Summer Membership Drive Party this Tuesday.
Sinkane was born in London, raised in Sudan, and currently a Brooklyn resident of over eight years. He’s well-versed on all of his band’s instruments—guitar, bass, drums, keys—and has an understated, angelic voice that can float overtop the meanest of funk and R&B grooves, or swing into falsetto mode for a range that is at once airy, patient and infectious. Gallab gives praise to vocalists Eddie Kendricks, Bill Withers, Betty Carter, and Justin Timberlake as influencing this style. His lyrics are social conscious and the music is a refreshing, head-bobbing mash of Sudanese pop and afro-rock with elements of Stax-era soul.
“It has all shaped my identity,” said Gallab, the son of college professors. His grandfather would sing spirituals in the house while hosting Sufi gatherings. “I was molded by all of those experiences. I feel like it would be hard for me to make the music that I do without having experienced the life that I have.”
Sinkane has been at it for over a decade, though Gallab has also spread his wings into some very interesting territory. He handled drums and bass for indie rockers Of Montreal, has played drums for electronic dance band Caribou in 2008, and rotated between guitar, drums and keyboards for three years with experimental rockers Yeasayer. But get this. Gallab was bandleader of the Afro-pop William Onyeabor tribute project, the Atomic Bomb! Band that included David Byrne of The Talking Heads, Money Mark of the Beastie Boys, and Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz, among others. Yes, this guy has serious street cred. His sound reflects these experiences, and the raw talent permeates.
“I finished playing with Of Montreal in December of 2008,” said Gallab, whom settled in Brooklyn thereafter. “Our last gig was David Letterman. I took a cab to my sister’s place afterward and decided I’d stay. What keeps me here is the food and culture. It’s very nice to walk down the street and hear five different languages spoken within one block radius.”
What stands out most about Sinkane’s music are the rhythms. Every instrument feels like a part of the rhythm section, and its consistently spirited. It’s an extension of Jamaican dancehall melded with the most memorable of 70s and 80s sounds and the expansive musings of Fela Kuti, all arranged into four-minute pop songs. The Afro-pop influence of Onyeabor is evident, though his 2017 solo record Life & Livin’ It finds him in a George Clinton funk space matched with shoegaze textures. For all the marbles, though, his goal with music is simple.
“I’d like it to buy me a nice boat.”
In early August, KHOL put a call out to local bands and musicians to earn the opening slot for this show. Fairly new to the scene, jazz-fusion/psychedelic rock trio Rude Noodle helped raise a slot-securing $2K for the commerical-free radio station. The power trio is comprised of drummer/vocalist Phillip Walker (of Sneaky Pete & the Secret Weapons), guitarist Adam Smith, and bassist Thomas Gaiennie.
According to KHOL Station Manager Zach Zimmerman, over $37K was raising during the drive. There will be a raffle at the show with prizes TBA. Here’s a cheers to station for spinning more than just commerical artists on the airwaves, and for shooting for the fences when it comes to booking original, lesser-seen talent for their Membership Parties. Sinkane with Rude Noodle, 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Pink Garter Theatre. $15-$35. 891KHOL.org/Party or PinkGarterTheatre.com.