Life & Livin’ It, the defiantly hopeful new record from Sinkane, arrives at a moment of national anxiety. Much like the protesters who took to the streets and airports in defense of immigrants last week, the album underscores the commonalities of the human experience, both good and bad. Ahmed Gallab, the mastermind of Sinkane, is no stranger to finding his place amid disparate elements. Born in London, he spent his early childhood in Sudan before moving to the U.S. at age 5. The resulting confluence of Gallab’s funk, pop and jazz influences soothes frayed nerves like a healing balm.
You seem like an optimistic person. Are you emboldened in the face of obstacles?
I think my optimism is so intense that it’s almost to a fault at times. I’ve never really been depressed or sad. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I grew up having a weird sense of identity and being confused about that, but coming out strong from that situation. I also really like being the voice of positivity amongst my friends when we are in a tough situation. You can’t be a leader and not be positive.
Are you optimistic now?
Here’s the thing: The lead-up to President Trump coming into power had a lot of negative response. The state of mind of people seemed like it was down-and-out. Then within the first week of his presidency, so many people came together collectively to respond. I think that’s a very beautiful thing, and it shows exactly where the state of the United States is. That, to me, shows just how connected and how together people are right now. If this happens in the first week, I’m really curious to see what will happen in the next four years.
As the music director of the Atomic Bomb! Band, you work with a very diverse, acclaimed group of artists. What do you try to bring to the table in your collaborations?
Energy. Energy, absolutely. A very positive, energetic vibe. My role in the band as the musical director is musical, but at the same time, and probably more so, it’s managerial. When you have 15 people onstage — that includes David Byrne, Damon Albarn and those kinds of people — with my band, there’s a lot of managerial work that goes into constructing a really concise and beautiful experience. It’s bursting at the seams.