The late William Onyeabor (who passed away on 16th January) – an influential Nigerian Electro-Funk musician – once said in a radio interview: “I only create music that will help the world”. Ahmed Gallab, the infectious soul behind musically vibrant project Sinkane seemingly adheres to this altruistic motto too on his new album Life & Livin It. In 2014, Ahmed Gallab formed a supergroup with other musicians such as Dev Heynes, Damon Albarn and Alexis Taylor called Atomic Bomb! Band that expressed his new found obsession with William Onyeabor’s catalogue to a global audience. In his latest record Sinkane goes one further and adopts Onyeabor’s goal at aiding community spirit and injecting music as emotional medicine.
Three years ago on predecessor Mean Love, Gallab radiated this Don Juan persona, serenading listeners with torch songs about romance, that sometimes came across as seductive and cheekily confident, but could also be bitter, sugary and analytical. The diverse styles which he blended with his signature Afrobeat-meets-Stevie Wonder funk such as Spanish guitar, high school prom doo-wop and swaying country and his skill at bending his voice from vulnerable to smooth expertly compliments this atmosphere of romantic self-indulgence. Although much of his musical method is analogous, on Life & Livin It his goal instead is to encourage positive spirit in a time where many are dealing with struggle. Being released in the first quarter of the year, it’s a perfect pick-me-up for those stuck in a daze between the disaster of 2016 and it’s ominous repercussions.
Uplifting lead single ‘U’Huh’ is the first point of reassurance that everything will be ok and expresses that all the current widespread hysteria is nothing new and nothing to be worried about. In the chorus Gallab preaches with the words “Kulu Shi Tamaam”. It’s an Arabic phrase meaning that “Everything will great!” The repeating of this foreign phrase along with the choice of instruments (trumpets, wah wah pedals, African percussion) and consistent rhythm creates an culturally rich festival atmosphere – one that can elevate any pessimistic mood. His evolving and engaging Sudanese-influenced krautrock-funk songs- which now have a hint of Quincy Jones and Dangermouse production about them – have such a strong ability to stimulate and encourage uncontrollable dancing and a sense of joy that it’s a shame when they end too soon such as in three- minute second single ‘Telephone’.
As a “third culture kid” that’s lived within many different communities from London to Sudan to Ohio, Ahmed Gallab struggled to pin down his own identity. On ‘Passenger’, ‘Deadweight’ and ‘Theme from Life & Livin’ It’, he pep talks himself into overcoming these self doubt and misplacement concerns (“People will say you can’t live your life this way, so afraid that their lives will break free.”) and ends up recycling his wanderlust into giving himself an advantageous lyrical perspective on understanding universal similarities throughout the world.
This is the cornerstone of this record, how to turn doom into bloom and connect people together into a celebratory euphoria. So when you feel blue in 2017, the new Sinkane is the starting point to life and learning how to live it.