music — every note of it — comes straight out of a generosity of spirit.
Never has that spirit been on more vivid display than on the uplifting
new album Life & Livin’ It. This is feel-good music for trying
times, celebrating what makes life good without ignoring what makes it
By the time they finished touring for their acclaimed Mean Love album in
late 2015, Ahmed Gallab and the band had spread the gospel of Sinkane
to the world, playing 166 shows in 20 countries. During the same
period, he had also led The Atomic Bomb Band — the highly celebrated
15-piece outfit that played the music of elusive Nigerian electro-funk
maestro William Onyeabor. The band included David Byrne, Damon Albarn,
members of Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture, Jamie Lidell and
legendary jazz musicians Pharoah Sanders and Charles Lloyd, and they
played all over the planet, including making their TV debut on The
Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. “Those 14 months really changed my
life,” Ahmed says. “Not only did I learn how to put on a bigger show,
but all that touring brought Sinkane closer as a band."
As Ahmed got into writing Life & Livin’ It, he had a clear goal; to
conjure the ups and downs of a universal experience, and have fun while
doing it. “I would listen to my favorite records, like Funkadelic’s
America Eats Its Young, and realize how great they made me feel. That
carefree, light and fun feeling I was getting while writing this record
is what I want everyone to feel when they listen to it."
Ahmed soon brought the band in to help with the material, testing the
songs at a four-show residency of sold-out shows at Union Pool in
Brooklyn where the audience’s reception fed the creative process. They
toured throughout the summer before setting up shop at Sonic Ranch
Studios in El Paso, Texas. Once again produced by Ahmed with lyrics and
help from longtime collaborator Greg Lofaro, the album draws from the
best elements of Sinkane’s previous records: the slinky funk and soul
grooves are there, so are the sparkling melodies with roots in
sub-Saharan Africa. With basic tracking played together live, the fun
and immediacy of Sinkane’s live show is a central feeling of the
recordings. The four members of Sinkane - bassist Ish Montgomery,
drummer Jason Trammell, guitarist Jonny Lam and Ahmed – sang and played
additional parts on every song, with Trammell contributing lyrics to
“Theme from Life & Livin’ It,” and Lam helping with arrangements.
Jas Walton and Jordan MacLean of Daptone recording artists Antibalas
Ahmed’s primary intention was to make music that is joyous, but also
socially conscious when you scratch beneath the surface. The songs
“U’Huh” and “Theme from Life & Livin’ It” conjure up the simple
pleasures of hanging with friends, but there are heavier vibes in there.
Ahmed says, “I remember listening to Bob Marley as a child. Dancing
with my family in our living room and then my mother telling me what
issues he was addressing, and that it was important to remember those
things while listening. It made the music even better because it became
about something more."
“Favorite Song” came about from Ahmed's experiences DJ’ing in New York.
“As a DJ you’re always paying attention to the collective energy in the
club. When you play a song that everyone knows, everybody is connected,
lost in the music.” That song, along with “U’Huh”, has lyrics sung in
Arabic, Ahmed's native tongue. “Kulu shi tamaam!” means “everything is
great!” while “ya zol ya zain!” is a Sudanese term of endearment meaning
“my beautiful friend.” “It’s really easy to understand the tone of
those words," Ahmed adds. "They just feel good, you don’t have to know
what they mean. It’s kind of like listening to Caetano Veloso or Jorge
Ben — you don’t have to know Portuguese to feel what they’re saying.”
True to its name, Life & Livin’ It is an album about all kinds of
experiences. When Ahmed Gallab sings, he sounds unafraid yet vulnerable.
But while he once sang of feeling like he was on the planet Mars, Ahmed
is now firmly grounded on Earth. He’s no longer searching for his home —
he has created a home for himself. There’s a party there, and Life
& Livin’ It is playing on the stereo. You are invited.
releases February 10, 2017
All lyrics by Greg Lofaro (except track no. 7 by Jason Trammell).
All music by Ahmed Abdullahi Gallab (Help by Jonny Lam tracks 1, 5, 7)
Produced by Ahmed Abdullahi Gallab
Mixed by Charles Godfrey.