Alsarah is a 39-year-old songwriter, singer, and bandleader, you name it, and she will continue to amaze you. she is a self-proclaimed and practitioner of “East African-Retro-Pop music.” While the 39-year-old singer goes by a single name, “Alsarah,” she is also well known because of her band “Alsarah and the Nubatones.”
Alsarah: The Beginning:
She was originally born in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. She relocated from Sudan to Yemen and finally moved to the United States of America and is currently living in Brooklyn, New York.
The first time she played the keyboard was when she was eight years old. She moved to the States at the age of 12 and became a part of a school choir, and this was the first time she realized she was interested in music and had a liking for it. For her studies, she went to the “Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School.” She was interested in understanding music and its meaning, so she then spent four years at the “Wesleyan University” where she studied ethnomusicology and understood the anthropology of sound.
She hadn’t thought of pursuing music as her career because she had immigrated to the States; however, it was not late until after she had turned 20, she realized that she did not have an interest in the political change but rather the human change. It became an inspiration for her music. Her favorite Nubian singers are Hamza Al-Din and Ahmad Munib, while she is a fan of some of the Sudanese singers, Abdel Gadir Salim, Rasha, Gisma Nur AlJilani.
The band “Alsarah and the Nubatones” was a product of multiple conversations between Alsarah and Rami el aAssers. He is a musician and plays Turkish and Arabic music on the tabla. The band comprises five members, starting from Alsarah herself as the lead singer, Rami el aAssers, who plays a tabla Mawuena Kodjovi a multi-instrumentalist who plays multiple instruments along with a guitar; Brandon Terzic, a musical artist, and Nahid.
The first time she performed with her band was at a place called “Alwan for Arts,” where she sang songs from the ’80s and ’90s from Zanzibar and the Eastern Coast of Kenya. But soon, the band released five albums; the first one came out back in 2014 titled “Soukura.” Following this, they released two full-length albums: “Silt” and “Manara” (Wonderlust Recordings 2014 and 2016). Their album “Manara” was chosen as the “top 10 songs in the world” by the Boston Globe back in 2016. Along with this, Alsarah collaborated with a French electronic producer, Debruit, and released an album titled “Ajawal.”
An Insight into her Music:
The band sings East African-Retro-Pop music. The inspiration behind creating East African music is from Sudan, Egypt, and Kenya. The retro in the music comes from the nostalgia and love she has for her homeland. It shows in her music because she sings in Arabic and the lyrics of her songs. “Ya Watan,” meaning “Oh Homeland,” is one of her songs that highlights her love for her homeland. Not only this, but Alsarah carries the retro vibe in her style as well, from those vintage dresses she wears to the cat eye makeup she does.
As she had traveled nationally and internationally, she gathers inspiration from the people and things around her. She sees her hometown as an outsider’s perspective, which gives her a clearer and broader vision, thus inspiring her to write songs.
Projects and Interviews:
Besides this, She has also taken part in different projects beyond her music, starting from the “Nile Project,” where different musicians from Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Uganda sing two songs. Alsarah was also a part of the “Nile Project” known as “Aswan” back in 2014. Furthermore, along with the “Sudanese artists Collective Refugee Club,” Alsarah created the documentary “Beats of Antonov.” The documentary was about Sudan farmers, herd, rebels, and their lives during the civil war. It showed how Sudanese civilians faced the Sudanese government during the bombings and killings. Alsarah also a part of “The Wise Women Muslim,” a project that works for Muslim women against inequality and violence against them.
Furthermore, Alsarah has been interviewed by some of the well-known magazines like “The Guardian,” “The Daily Gazette,” and “The Big Island Magazine.” In her interview with “The Guardian,” she talked about her music’s tour and inspiration. She talked about the reaction her music gets in the USA and outside it. While in her interview with “The Daily Gazette,” She highlighted her early life and the beginning of her career, where she discussed the audience’s reaction in New York the first time she played for them.
Alsarah has also made her appearance on the “Sudanese 24 TV” and, back in 2019, performed on the “KEXP Studios.”
Currently, Alsarah, along with her band “The Nubatones,” continues to thrive by announcing new dates for their tour. The band continues to impress everyone with their new-released single, “your love is home.” which was written for the book Home Is Not a Country by the Sudanese poet Safia Elhillo. Along with this, the band is also doing a remix challenge. Alsarah and the Nubatones will keep amazing everyone in the coming future; there is no doubt about that!!