Alsarah & The Nubatones

Wonderwheel Records, 2016

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


Formerly of The Nile Project and Sound Of Tarab, Alsarah has established herself as a prominent voice in Arabic singing and has been aligned with The Nubatones since 2010. Together, the outfit blend East African pop ideas with minimal electronica. The band is no strangers to intricate arrangements, but they can also get back to basics. It results in a sound with a wide expanse, where people can both get on the dance floor and also find themselves buried deep in introspection. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Salam Nubia” leads off with an anthemic and percussively heavy taste of what's to come. Though it utilizes instruments we are less familiar with in the West, there's universal melody running throughout. The following tracks, “Alforag” and “Albahr,” are gentler, soulful offerings, and the latter brings in a groove that unfolds with a folk vibe. There are a few interludes on the album, one of which is so quick there's little reason to mention it. But “Fulani Interlude 2,” while being short on lyrics (it's basically the title repeated), is long on vocal melodies that make it an unforgettable minute.

As you explore deeper into the album, it becomes more eclectic. There is “Nar” with its jazz and blues nods that are met with a noisier feel where multiple voices and styles converge. Meanwhile, the creative folk-pop of “3roos Elneel” isn't too far off from what many indie rockers pursue today in the States. The title track “Manara” starts off with the relaxing sounds of running water before muffled horns lead into a darker feel, and the album exits on the spacey, experimental slow burning of “Sar Minni.”

Often referred to as “East African Retropop,” Alsarah's powerful vocals in both Nubian and Arabic are nothing if not ebullient across this entire disc. Though the band has lost and gained members recently, they sound confident, graceful, and mature in their new lineup.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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