Ahmed Gallab sure loves mixing things up, whether it’s music or people.
The London-born Gallab, who’s better known as musical artist Sinkane, is a singer and multi-instrumentalist who melds a lot of musical styles: rock, reggae, funk, even Sudanese pop. (The last one holds a special place in his heart, since he’s of Sudanese descent.) This makes his music very hard to categorize.
“It’s hard when it’s not as neatly digestible as, say, The Strokes or Vampire Weekend or something where it’s very distinctly that, like pop music or rap or R&B,” says Gallab, 31, on the phone from his Brooklyn home base. “When you start throwing in many different things into the mix, it gets a little confusing for people.”
Nevertheless, he continues to weave genres together, as evidenced by his latest album, last year’s “Mean Love.”
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“I’m definitely exploring a lot of different genres and how they work together in the latest record that I made,” he says. “But it’s also the most concise album that I’ve made. The song structures are a lot more structured than any of the albums I’ve ever made. The vocals are absolutely prominent, whereas everything else is more about the music, you know. So, in that regard, it’s definitely much more reined-in, and it’s definitely much tighter and more cohesive than anything I’ve ever done.”
Gallab is a dude who loves flowing from one genre to the next in his music, as well as collaborating with diverse artists. In the past, he’s teamed up or performed with of Montreal, Caribou and The Fiery Furnaces’s Eleanor Friedberger, among others. Recently, he got together with TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe and Sal P for a track on The Alchemist and Oh No’s “Welcome to Los Santos” compilation.
“I think every artist should do that kind of thing,” he says. “You learn a lot about yourself, you learn things about yourself that you didn’t know were there when you do that kind of thing. And it ultimately helps the whole music community – you know, it should be a collaborative thing. Everyone should have the opportunity to collaborate with each other. It makes the music better.”
But Gallab doesn’t just mingle with the indie crowd. In 2013, he had the opportunity to perform one of his tracks live with Usher and the Afghan Whigs at SXSW. He still doesn’t know how that happened. “I have no idea, to be honest,” he says. “I mean, that was a dream come true for me. I’m a huge fan of both of those bands. You know, I used to live in Ohio, and the Afghan Whigs are from Ohio. So it was a very beautiful thing to experience the whole collaboration.”
Last year, Gallab did more live collaboration when he and his bandmates served as the core musicians for a supergroup called The Atomic Bomb! Band. Along with a rotating guest list of musicians, including David Byrne, Joshua Redman, Money Mark and others, Gellab and the band did a series of live shows where they performed the music of reclusive Nigerian funk musician William Onyeabor. (The band will still do festival gigs throughout the summer, hitting Bonnaroo later this month.) This all started when the folks at the Luaka Bop label were looking for more info on the man.
“They saw me play with Femi Kuti and they really liked the performance,” he says. “And they were interviewing Femi Kuti about William Onyeabor. And they found that Femi Kuti didn’t really know anything about him. But, then, they asked me in passing, like do you know who this guy is. And I said, ‘Yeah, I love him! I love his music and I’ve been really inspired by him. I love everything that he’s done.’ And they decided to ask me to be a part of the project. And I took it on very seriously and I was very happy to be involved in it. I’m very honored. It’s the biggest thing I’ve done in my musical career up to date.”
Gallab continues to perform his own music live, which he will be doing this weekend at Kings. He knows his music isn’t for everyone, but those willing to give it a chance just might dig what he’s playing.
“You know, the music speaks for itself,” he says. “It doesn’t need to be categorized as anything. If you like it and you think it’s good, then that’s great. And if you don’t, that’s OK too. You know, there are a lot of other bands around the world who make music as well that you can experience.”
Who: Sinkane, with Shirlette Ammons
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Kings, 14 W. Martin St., Raleigh
Info: 919-833-1091 or kingsbarcade.com