Your Source for NPR News & Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Sudanese musician Sinkane on his new album 'We Belong'

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COME TOGETHER")

SINKANE: Africa.

TAMARA KEITH, HOST:

The musician Ahmed Gallab has lived his life without borders. Born to Sudanese parents in the U.K., he spent his early years in Africa, then Ohio, Utah, and now New York City. Performing as Sinkane, his new album, "We Belong," pulls inspiration from these places.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COME TOGETHER")

SINKANE: (Singing) Our fragmented nations have all but shaped our place. Our subconscious memory won't share the same restraints. Lived in many houses, none of...

When I started writing this album, I didn't know what I wanted to write about. All I knew was I didn't want to make it about myself. And I became really inspired by modern music, especially from Africa and the U.K., the Caribbean and, of course, the United States. And because all of these musics are tied together by the Black experience, it became really easy for me to want to speak about the Black experience. And it really brought a really strong theme to this album community because that's a central figure in Black culture - is community.

KEITH: You talk about community. This album is also quite collaborative, right?

SINKANE: That's one of the things that was really exciting about this, especially living in New York. There's this really robust and vast musical community that exists here. One really freeing thing for me on this album was letting go of the control of doing everything myself, and it really really made me realize that we are all the - greater than the sum of our parts, you know? Creating something together makes for something that I wouldn't be able to do on my own.

KEITH: And you describe this as a love letter to Black music. Is there a particular song on this album that speaks to this idea of the album as a love letter to Black music?

SINKANE: I would say "The Anthem." The whole song talks about our experience as Black people, what we have that we can rejoice in. The way the song started was me and my collaborator, Amanda Khiri - we were kind of brainstorming about what is it that Black people have that make people envious of us, you know?

KEITH: How long was that text chain?

SINKANE: Oh, man. It was long. It was long. I mean, we have a...

KEITH: (Laughter).

SINKANE: ...Google Doc.

KEITH: Oh, it moved beyond a text chain.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE ANTHEM")

STOUT: (Singing) The way we enter and the way we leave, a feat impossible, best believe it. We glisten in the sun. Our color never runs.

SINKANE: The way we walk, Black people walking on beat down the street, our fashion sense, our collective understanding of that - I mean, there's a lot in the song. It kind of speaks for itself. It's - every single line is essentially talking about these things.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE ANTHEM")

STOUT: (Singing) Watch as you marvel us.

SINKANE: And one of the things that is really exciting about Black culture is we really know how to celebrate ourselves. And that's really the one thing that we have that allows us to kind of stay sane amongst all the noise and the years and years of oppression and just the history of our existence as we big up each other and we get together and we talk about these things. So I really wanted to create an anthem for us, you know? When we're all together, and we're listening to a song like this, you know, be it at a family gathering or a barbecue or a concert or whatever, it feels really, really uplifting.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE ANTHEM")

STOUT: (Singing) And I, I love being Black. Oh, yes, I do. I love...

KEITH: Can you talk about some of the influences for this album? - 'cause as I understand it, you were also inspired by Black writers like Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison.

SINKANE: Yeah. The Black arts movement was really important on this record. Black poetry is just so beautiful to me, you know? And the magical realism and the people like Toni Morrison and Audre Lorde and Sonia Sanchez and Nikki Giovanni, Ishmael Reed - they showed me how to express myself, how to express us, in a very wonderful and, like, a poetic way.

KEITH: Is there a poem or, you know, a piece of phrase or a stanza or something that really resonates with you and that sort of rings in your head?

SINKANE: There is one by Audre Lorde.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIMING").

SINKANE: (Singing) I glow...

It's about self-care and perseverance. And it says, caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare. And we found that to be just so astute and so poignant to what we're talking about. Caring for ourselves is an act of political warfare. It is very important.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIMING")

SINKANE: (Singing) My life is my truth, my passion, my proof. We are beautiful. We journey within. We fight, and we win. Everything is right on time. Everything is right on time. Everything...

KEITH: I do want to ask about your background, sort of finishing where we started. You are Sudanese. You grew up there, then all over America. There's a major civil war happening in Sudan that barely gets any attention here in the U.S. Do you know people there who are affected?

SINKANE: Yeah, my entire extended family is in Sudan. My mother's side of the family has all fled the country due to the war in Sudan right now. And unfortunately, a year ago, my cousin passed away on his way out of the country. No one in the country has worked since April of 2023. There's a major famine going on there. There's 24.8 million people who are in need of assistance in Sudan right now, and over 15,000 people have passed away in the last year alone.

Communication with my family is very bleak. Sometimes we're able to communicate, and then sometimes, there's a internet blackout, electricity blackout. We don't know what's going on. So it's disheartening a bit, you know, that not a lot of people are talking about this, and it's just one of the things that's happening in Africa that a lot of people don't talk about.

KEITH: How does this experience and this ongoing trauma that affects your family and the country that you came from - how does that affect your music?

SINKANE: Well, it gives me a lot of purpose.

(SOUNDBITE OF SINKANE SONG, "RISE ABOVE")

SINKANE: There's, like, a - I guess a selfish reason for me to make music because it makes me feel good and what I do - you know, I'm - I started playing music when I was 11 years old, and I didn't really look back. But the older that I get and the more attention that I received on places like NPR or anywhere else, the more I feel like I'm representing something.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RISE ABOVE")

SINKANE: (Singing) I won't compromise. No one can steal my light away from me. I rise above.

KEITH: Ahmed Gallab, also known as Sinkane - he's out with a new album, "We Belong." Thank you for joining us.

SINKANE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RISE ABOVE")

SINKANE: (Singing) I rise above. Ooh. There is no fear. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
Related Stories