Immigrants: they get the job done.
On the cover of Sinkane’s latest album Life & Livin’ It, various items are strewn about to the left and right of musician Ahmed Gallab as if he’s running a yard sale. Each of those items tell a different story. And just as well, the various places where Sinkane has grown up tell a different story. Born in Sudan to parents who sought asylum in the US for their family when he was five, he grew up listening to American music, Afro-pop, and funk music, all of which carried over into a blend of genres that can confidently be called all his own. And at his second Black Cat appearance (the first being a sold-out performance at the smaller Backstage room), he and his multicultural cast of bandmates let the music speak for itself with an enthusiastically positive performance for a world that desperately needs some positivity.
At front and center were Sinkane and singer Amanda Khiri, who was an endless source of dancing and joy throughout the night. Also joining the band were three members of the No BS! Brass Band on trombones and trumpets. What was most interesting and refreshing about the band’s dynamic is that Gallab was content to let the others in the band take the lead on many of the songs while he basked in the music.
During “Yacha”, Sinkane let Khiri take the lead vocals that were originally his on his 2014 album Mean Love. And during the sunny “Theme From Life & Livin’ It”, Sinkane switched spots with drummer Jason Trammell, who sang the lead vocals on the album as well. And when it came time for Sinkane’s portion of the vocals on the song, keyboardist Elenna Canlas sang his part instead. All the while, Sinkane was on drum kit duties having the time of his life while his band brought the positive vibes to the room.
Not only did he get to prove his talent on both the guitar and drums that night, but he was able to prove that in the end, it’s all a team effort. No matter who it is at the front of the stage singing the songs, it’s the connection to the music that really matters. And whether it was the extended disco jam of “Telephone” the Afro-pop rhythms of “How We Be”, or even the Latin percussion influence of “Passenger”, people found a way to connect with the many sounds of Sinkane. Score one for the immigrant cause.
Opening for Sinkane was Richmond, VA’s No BS! Brass Band, who have gained a devoted following by combining New Orleans-style big band music with the energy of a rock concert and threw in a megaphone for good measure. They performed favorites like “RVA All Day” (much to the appreciation of the ex-Richmonders in the crowd) and a cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears. Their latest album is 2015’s Brass Knuckles.