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Sinkane’s Ahmed Gallab on ‘We Belong,’ His ‘Love Letter to Black Music’

Latest project explores "the Black experience and culture"
Sinkane (Photo credit: Chloe Morales-Pazant)

Ahmed Gallab says that We Belong, the latest Sinkane album, is his first that isn’t “all about [him].” Speaking with SPIN backstage at SXSW, the versatile musician explains that he wanted to “take [himself] out of the narrative” and, rather, write about the joy that he’s found within the Black community.

“It started out as an exercise in writing music that I was inspired by,” Gallab says of creating We Belong. “Afrobeats, reggae, funk, soul, and a lot of modern stuff, in contrast to what I have done in the past. As I started writing more music that was influenced by that, the message of community kind of came together. Me digging in and diving into ‘How do I put my stamp [on] this, into the narrative of Black music, Black poetry, the Black experience and culture? How does that sound when it’s coming through the Sinkane lens?”

He credits various Black musicians as early inspirations, including Pharoah Sanders, George Clinton, and Sly Stone. Specifically speaking on the latter, Gallab says that Stone and his music taught him an important lesson: “Just being yourself is a form of protest, and also you can have a lot of fun with that.” With his “love letter to Black music,” he hopes that We Belong reflects his own own experience.

Gallab also reflects on the importance of mental health as a touring and recording artist. He says that eating well, working out, meditating, and “connecting with people” are all vital to keeping him centered.

“I always say that I don’t live to work—I work to live,” he reflects. “Being able to take myself out of my music—and understand a life outside of that—helps me not dwell in the darkness.”