Album Review: Silt, by Alsarah and the Nubatones

by ptinti


A review of Silt, the long-awaited debut album from Alsarah and the Nubatones. Alsarah and her band are self-proclaimed practitioners of East African retro-pop whose music blends a variety of influences with traditional Nubian and Sudanese sounds.

I cannot recall who or what first steered me in Alsarah’s direction, but for some time “Vote!” was the only track I had heard by the Brooklyn-based Sudanese songstress who spent some of her formative years in Yemen. “Vote!” is a collaboration with American rapper Oddisee, who comes out of the DMV hip-hop scene but is connected to Sudan by way of his father. The synth-laden political track places Alsarah’s singing over a mix of hip-hop beats, traditional Sudanese instrumentation, and the low end of a piano.

In 2012, I stumbled across Alsarah again, this time singing a traditional Sudanese wedding song with her sister, Nahid. It’s a delightful bit of music that not only shows off Alsarah’s voice, but the pride she takes in sharing her culture with audiences who might not otherwise be familiar with Sudanese music. There is even a short explainer at the end, putting the song and lyrics in context.

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