Via NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert series comes this stirring, playful and eye-opening three-song set of ‘East-African Retro-Pop’ by Alsarah & the Nubatones. What does that tag mean?
From the intro:
When singer Alsarah left her native Sudan, she was just a child who’d shown an interest in music. She’s said it served as her coping mechanism during a subsequent transition to life here in the U.S. That passion led her to a university degree in ethnomusicology.
It also drew her to musicians who were passionate about the intersection of culture, music and migration. Together, their one-of-a-kind expression has been called “East African retro pop.” But that tag only scratches the surface: In their hands, the music pulses, breathes and comes alive with a mix of tradition and contemporary influences.
And adding another layer to that definition, just a bit more from her website:
Alsarah & the Nubatones were born out of many dinner conversations between Alsarah and Rami el Aasser about Nubian ‘songs of return’, modern migration patterns and the cultural exchanges between Sudan and Egypt. A common love for the richness of pentatonic sounds, and shared migration experiences, expanded the conversation to include Armenian–American oud player Haig Manoukian and French-born Togo-raised bass player Mawuena Kodjovi. Under the leadership of Alsarah, the Brooklyn-based group’s sound grew into what they have dubbed as ‘East–African retro-pop’.
It’s a mesmerizing meld. A perfect match for today’s coffee break concert.
The set list:
And the musicians:
Alsarah (vocals); Nahid (backing vocals); Rami El Aasser (percussion, backing vocals); Mawuena Kodjovi (bass, backing vocals); Brandon Terzic (oud).
Some links for further exploration:
- A December 2016 NPR feature, ‘Born In Sudan, Based In Brooklyn. A Singer Remixes Her Identities’
- An October 2016 feature on FRI
- An August 2016 feature in Noisey
- A 2013 feature in The Guardian
- A 2015 feature in The National (UAE)
- Alsarah’s Facebook page
- Alsarah & the Nubatones’ Facebook page