Baptized « the new star of Nubian pop » by the prestigious Guardian Magazine, the sudanese singer from Brooklyn Alsarah gracefully distils atemporal melodies over heady beats, at the crossroads of East-African and Arabic influences. After a successful first album “Silt” released in 2014 and performed on the most prestigious stages of the world, Alsarah and her musicians The Nubatones are back with a new opus “Manara”.
The questions, “What is home?” and “What does it sound like?” lie at the crux of the creation of Manara. As Alsarah explains: “Sometimes we leave home willingly, sometimes we are forced out, sometimes we plan to go back, and sometimes we don’t know if we will ever see our loved ones again. But one thing we always know is that we don’t want to forget, or be forgotten. As the sea takes us, Manara is the lighthouse anchoring our journey, and the keeper of our secrets. Not a destination, but rather a marker along the way.”
Charismatic and independent, author, composer and ethnomusicologist, considered as the new standard bearer of East-African retro-pop music, Alsarah belongs to the generation of artists pursuing an atypical path and drawing upon her origins precious influences which she melt with her day-to-day ones.
Settled in Brookylin, there is no doubt that the surrounding frenzy, the multiculturalism and the constant tingling of this city, consciously or unconsciously guide Alsarah and her musicians in the search for this perfect balance between urban culture, modernity and traditional reminiscences. Inspired by both the golden age of Sudanese pop music of the 70s and the New-York effervescence, Alsarah & The Nubatones build a repertoire where an exhilarating oud plays electric melodies on beautiful jazz-soul bass lines, and where sharp and modern percussions breathe new life to age-old rhythms. Some major artists influences, such as Bi Ki Dude the charismatic legend of taarab from Zanzibar, or the iconoclastic Grace Jones, give to Alsarah and her sister Nahid’s voices an incredible richness which widen her musical spectrum while keeping a deep identity.
If Silt was the mud the band came from, then “Manara” is the house built of that clay. Born out of a creative retreat for the band in Asilah, Morocco in November of 2015, this album showcases a new intimacy in the creative process with the majority of the tracks being original compositions by Alsarah & the Nubatones. Under the leadership of Alsarah, the band explores the many emotions and themes that mark the long journey after immigration begins. “Manara” is a quest, and also a celebration of all the ways in which we shift, change, and grow as we seek to build a new life. From the joy that comes from gathering with your loved ones, to the spiritual image of sea – the oldest road in the world to a new ideal, from the generosity of the people met during the journey, to the way governments have been failing our humanity facing them, Manara is an invitation to introspection but also to consider our mutual differences as a means to share and to enrich one another, in the face of the current anti-immigrant global atmosphere.
In an age of single track downloads, this album is made to be listened to from beginning to end, in the vein of classic albums such as “Dark Side of the Moon”, and “Musicology”.
Track/Video premiere pitching:
« Making East African Pop Feel at Home in Brooklyn » – GOOD
« Alsarah, the new star of Nubian pop.» – The Guardian
« On the basis of oud, ngoni, bass and percussion the quintet develops a groovy and spheric microcosm full of timbre. » – Journal Frankfurt
« Her voice evokes the aura of a Sudanese queen. Her music speaks of immigration, by choice or by force, and goes from electronic to Nubian inspired 70s pop music, to North African Arabic music. » – Libération
« Creating something fresh yet timeless and imbued with a sense of nostalgia. » – Songlines
« The entire album is thoughtfully composed. Tempos change and bridges emerge just as songs might start to sound repetitive (they don’t). Unlike a lot of ‘diaspora albums’, nothing about SILT feels gimmicky. There are some gorgeous interludes between tracks and a few worthwhile remixes tacked on at the end. » – Beacon Reader
Download the full press review here
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