According to Music Africa Awake reporter:
Kenyan music lovers were treated to a special live event from one of Africa’s melodic singers Alsarah alongside her Nubatones band during her visit to Kenya a few months ago.
The event at Alliance Française Gardens gave fans a chance to sample the best of African tunes, ranging from Sudanese to Egyptian cultural sounds in a contemporary context.
Dubbed The Silt Tour, Alsarah’s much anticipated show alongside her four band member saw fans ‘eat from the palms of her hands’ as she churned out the best of entertainment from her recently released album Silt.
Her music which is a blend of Afro-soul, ranges from the 1960s to 70s Nubian music incorporated with traditional East African instrumentation. With Arabic influences, pentatonic riffs and enchanting vocals, the band is best described as ‘East African retro pop.
Afro Simba Band and Yellow Light Machine also had the opportunity to churn out the best of evergreen Kenyan and East African tunes taking revelers down memory lane.
“I am glad to be in Kenya. The fact that people here love and appreciate my music is a sign that I am headed in the right direction and hope to continue doing so. It has always been my desire to make quality music, something different from what is played on the radio,” said Alsarah.
Today, the fast rising musician has become one of the most influential and successful Nubian pop singers, having played to thousands of fans.
She was born in Khartoum, Sudan, in 1982, where she spent the first eight years of her life. Her family later relocated to Taez, Yemen to escape the ever stifling regime in her native country.
In 1994, when a brief civil war broke out in Yemen, she abruptly moved to America together with her family where a new world of music opened up in front of the young music lover.
Without much hesitation, Alsarah decided to study ethnomusicology, at the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter High School, in Hadley, Massachusetts, then spent four years at Wesleyan University, becoming a professional singer in Arabic.
“My parents lived in a region filled with several universities. My mother is a university professor, my father, a human rights activist,” she clarifies.
Initially, Alsarah’s parents were worried, thinking that their daughter chose a difficult career. The rest of her family in Sudan and Egypt, often refers to her as “crazy Sarah.” Sarah is her real name to which she chose to add the particle “Al.”
Her insight in the music industry changed when she started singing with Sound of Tarab, a band from Zanzibar. Following Sound of Tarab, Alsarah began broadening her experience with techno sounds. In 2013, she worked with the French DJ and synthesizer together releasing the album Al Jawal (Eternal Traveler). The album helped Alsarah to bring her voice to larger audience.
“Contemporary music is not only about techno and electronic instruments. And though some people think that the traditional and folk music is stagnant, we can always infuse it with fresh air. Through my work with Débruit, I wanted to revive those songs,” she said.
Alsarah’s songs talk about love, relationships and a sense of nostalgia but on a deeper level she sings about her home country, evoking migration and the return of Nubians to their native land (following the flooding of their lands after the construction the High Dam). It is in those events that she found her voice, style and purpose.
Her band Nubatones, formed in 2010, consists of members representing different nationalities. “I did not aim to create a band consisting of Sudanese from Nubia. Rami Al-Aassar is an American percussionist with Egyptian origins. Bassist Mawuena Kodjovi is originally from Togo while Haig Manoukian – (deceased) – was Armenian,” she explains.
Today her band members are Nahid Abunama – Elgadi – Vocals, Brandon Terzic – (Oud), Mauwena Kodjovi – (Bass Guitar) and Rami El Aasser – Percussion in performing in different parts of the Middle East and East Africa.
The singer who is involved in numerous initiatives that go beyond music such as The Nile Project and the WISE Muslim Women says her background in ethnomusicology has made her view music in a broad way having toured Hungary, Portugal, France, U.A.E, Morocco, Egypt, Sweden and Lithuania just to name a few.