My Firsts: Ahmed Gallab of Sinkane | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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My Firsts: Ahmed Gallab of Sinkane

Adult and Contemporary

Jul 10, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

My Firsts is our email interview series where we ask musicians to tell us about their first life experiences, be it early childhood ones (first word, first concert, etc.) or their first tastes of being a musician (first band, first tour, etc.). For this My Firsts we talk to Ahmed Gallab of Sinkane.

Gallab was born in London in 1983 to Sudanese parents who were college professors. He also lived in Sudan before moving to America at age five, where he was raised in Ohio. These days he’s based in New York City. Prior to launching Sinkane, he worked as a session musician with Yeasayer, Caribou, Eleanor Friedberger, and more. Gallab is the main creative force behind Sinkane and the project’s debut EP, Sinisterals, was released in 2007. Sinkane’s new album, Dépaysé, came out in May via City Slang. It features the full five-piece band, including Gallab.

A press release says Dépaysé “chronicles an immigrant’s journey of self-discovery in the Trump era.” Gallab further explains in a self-written bio for the album: “Dépaysé is a French word that basically means ‘to be removed from one’s habitual surroundings. By extension, it means to be disoriented, homeless. That’s a feeling I relate to very much in these timesand I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way. That word gave me clarity and made the journey inward that much more exciting.”

Read on as Gallab talks about his first word (in English at least), the music his parents got him into, the first record he bought and his first favorite band, and moving to America.

First word?

I don’t really remember my first word. My first language is Arabic and I moved to the United States when I was five. I didn’t speak any English at the time. In fact, on my first day of school in the U.S. I pissed my pants because I didn’t know how to ask to go to the bathroom. The moment did teach me how to ask to do that and, thusly, the first English word that I learned was “restroom.”

First record your parents played for you?

Like all Sudanese families, Sudanese Haqiba and Madeeh music are the soundtrack to my childhood. My dad was good friends with Mohammed Wardi so that was always playing at the house. Zidan, Mohommad Al-Amin, Sharhabeel, Kamal Tarbas too. But the couple albums that really struck a chord with me were Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, Ali Farka Toure’s The Source, Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required, Bob Marley’s Legend, MC Hammer’s Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em, and ABBA’s Gold compilation. No joke, my dad came home one day with a sound system and those records and my family had a dance party in our living room. I got thrown into the deep end of probably the most eclectic music collection that anybody could ask for. That year my parents brought up Rod Stewart’s Unplugged record, a bunch of classical music, Miriam Makeba, and my mom would make mix tapes by recording songs from adult contemporary radio. I still know every one one of those damn songs by heart and, when I hear them, I anticipate what’s coming next. Richard Marx, Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, and Celine Dionne have secretly influenced the music I’ve made.

First album you bought?

I actually bought two albums at once. Sleater-Kinney’s The Hot Rock and [Radiohead’s] OK Computer. I did have albums before that that my parents got me. Counting Crows’ August and Everything After, The Offspring’s Smash, TLC’s CrazySexyCool, All-4-One’s first album, Oasis, and Bush’s Sixteen Stone. But when I turned 12 years old, I decided that I needed to be the most contrary music snob on Earth and convinced myself that those records “didn’t count” in my music collection. Matter of fact, I remember running over that Offspring CD with my car. Now, as a professional musician, I see how insanely stupid I was and I hope that karma doesn’t come bite me in the ass as some kid does the same with a Sinkane album.

First favorite band?

Oasis. I was head over heels in love with this band. I still like them. Great lyrics and very well crafted tunes. But, man. I still remember the first time I heard “Supersonic” and “Wonderwall.” I could NOT stop listening to that music.

First favorite song?

“We Got It” by Immature. This song completely took over my brain. The thing is, though, it didn’t get played on the radio that much. I also didn’t have cable as a kid and I wasn’t able to see the music video on MTV or BET. But whenever that song came on I would freak out and start dancing wherever I was.

First musician you had a crush on?

Michelle Branch. I remember going to a Lifehouse concert in Cleveland with my friend Samer only because she was opening. I also wrote to her fan club hoping she’d read it and fall in love with me somehow and ask me to join her band. Welp, that definitely didn’t happen and now she’s married to someone I know.

First concert you went to?

Smashing Pumpkins in 1996. This was right after they kicked out their drummer. A kid at the Delta Center held up a sign that said, “I play drums!” And Billy Corgan brought him up to jam with them at the encore. The entire show (among many others) is available online in an archive. What a trip.

First country you visited outside of your own?

United States. My family came here in 1989 to be with my dad while he was studying at Boston University. We were gonna head back after a year but that didn’t really work out too well for us.

First instrument?

Drums. My friends started a band in the sixth grade and needed a drummer. I remember going to the music store and sitting down on a drum kit and instantly knowing what to do. It was so awesome. I used to play to the radio for hours.

First band you were in?

Present Tense…. well, we were first called Rigid Prawn. We played our first show when we were 12 years old opening up for a high school band called Rash. I still have the flier somewhere. That show made me realize that I wanted to play music for the rest of my life.

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