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Performance Review: Alsarah and the Nubatones

Alsarah (left) and her sister Nahid

Alsarah & The Nubatones performed at the Campus Theatre Wednesday, November 7th at 7:30 pm. The show was preceded by a pre-performace talk at 6:30 pm with Alsarah led by Professor Angele Kingue.

Alsarah performed with her band, including her sister Nahid, on backing vocals, bassist Mawuena Kodjovi, oudist Brandon Terzic, and percussionist Rami El-Aasser of the Cafe Antarsia Ensemble. Singing original music inspired by Nubian/Sudanese traditions and songs, the Nubatones put on a fabulous, foot stomping show that got people out of their seats and dancing.

At the Q&A pre-show talk Professor Kingue introduced Alsarah as “a young artist dealing with relevant issues in her music, and whose sound is at the intersection of all African music.” To elaborate on inhabiting an intersection, Alsarah explained eloquently, “I think of traditional [music] as inspired by fusion. I think of people as having one leg in different places. I think of myself as a bridge, almost… I connect multiple worlds. Wherever you go, you take something from your origins with you.”

Alsarah defines her music as East-African Retro Pop, but as an artist she states that she’s always had some difficulty with labels. “It’s hard to encompass sound into just one word,” she elaborated. But this isn’t to say that she is completely averse to the idea of labeling. Quoting Audrey Lorde, Alsarah cited the philosophy, “If you don’t pick labels for yourself, somebody else will pick them for you.”

“I never liked the labels that were offered to me.” She said. “So for me, it became about where I’m drawing my inspiration from…” creating her own image by taking ownership of herself and her sound. For Alsarah, her inspiration stems mainly from her Sudanese and Nubian roots; but it also extends much farther. “Being binary is so cliche,” She laughs. Now living in Brooklyn NY, when faced with the question of Where and What is Home, Alsarah replied, “[Home] is a place where you feel seen, where you feel witnessed, where you feel no need to be exceptional or special, to be loved, to be you… and that’s a state of mind, not a place.”

~ Grayson Kennedy, Class of 2019

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