Yeasayer's Sudanese-American drummer steps out
Where He’s From: New York by way of Ohio by way of Utah by way of Sudan
Genre: Pysch-rock with an afropop twist.
When He Started: 2007
Sounds Like: Ennio Morricone, on drugs.
Ahmed Gallab’s story is just your basic “young child escapes threat of political violence in Sudan with exile parents, becomes touring indie-rock drummer” – we’ve all heard that one before, right? After leaving Sudan at age six, Ahmed and his family settled in Utah, of all places, where he rebelled against the North African music of his parents to play drums in hardcore punk bands.
Fast-forward a bunch of years, and Ahmed was sitting on the drum throne and getting weird with some of the indie rock’s marquee artists, including Yeasayer, Caribou, and of Montreal. At the same time, he has been putting together an omnivorous instrumental solo project under the name Sinkane. On his EPs Color Voice (2008) and Sinkane (2009), Ahmed came at us with a richly textured psychedelic soul sound, almost like an updated Shuggie Otis. The vibe was rounded out with touches of blues and free-jazz, full of cloudy ambiances and space-echo guitars.
This fall, he’ll be releasing a new, full-length album titled Mars and from the sound of the teaser single “Jeeper Creeper,” (below) Sinkane is delving into new territories. The track has the driving four-on-the-floor kick and riffy guitars you often hear in West African jams, mashed up with the gun-smoke drama of Ennio Morricone’s “Spaghetti Western” soundtracks and some almost Enya-esque ecstasies. After hearing so many vanilla rockers take an axe to African guitar-pop, it’s refreshing to hear someone with a deeper connection to the continent try their hand at giving those sounds the indie treatment. Ahmed simply puts it this way, “Bottom line is: I wanted to make a fun record and I think we did that.”
Also, peep the great vintage African-psych mixtape Ahmed put together for OkayAfrica’s “Africa in Your Earbuds” series.