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All the World’s a Stage

When Columbus ex-pat Ahmed Gallab (Sinkane) set out to record his third album, the just-released Mean Love, he and co-producer Greg Lofaro had only one objective in its completion – “no love songs.” “But still, the sentiment of love was important to us,” says Gallab, on a break from his recent European tour. “The album’s [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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When Columbus ex-pat Ahmed Gallab (Sinkane) set out to record his third album, the just-released Mean Love, he and co-producer Greg Lofaro had only one objective in its completion – “no love songs.”

“But still, the sentiment of love was important to us,” says Gallab, on a break from his recent European tour. “The album’s more about the relationship a person has with life. It’s really no different than a relationship with a significant other. It can be tough, it can be challenging, but in the end it’s worth it. Love, fear, hate, excitement, and joy, all of those things are universal and that’s what we’re talking about here.”

On Mean Love, that relationship with Earth, the universal, is apparent on every track. Afro-pop horns reminiscent of Fela Kuti appear on the stunning “New Name,” Brazilian bossa nova snakes through the lilting “Moonstruck,” hard ’70s funk is the template for “Yacha,” and there’s even a pedal steel weeping from some abandoned Southern honky-tonk on the tear-in-your-beer ballad “Galley Boys.” In the video for “How We Be,” Gallab can be seen roaming the streets of his adopted home of Brooklyn with choreographed dancers in tow, adhering closest with the gritty dance-punk beats of his label DFA. 

Since leaving our city and pursuing a career with Sinkane full-time in New York City in 2008, Gallab has seen a lot of the world. He’s played session man on endless tours with bands like Of Montreal, Yeasayer, and Caribou. Returned to his native Sudan for inspiration (as seen on the cover of his last album Mars). Sat in with the Afghan Whigs and Usher at a surprise SXSW gig. And this past spring he was a vital member of Atomic Bomb, a star-studded tribute to Nigerian funk pioneer William Onyeabor that saw him rubbing shoulders on the Tonight Show with Money Mark and David Byrne. It’s been a whirlwind, but most of that globe-trotting wanderlust has been funneled into the grooves of Sinkane. 

It’s as if Gallab is the Carmen Sandiego of indie rock – letting his many travels serve as the primary influence for the songs rather than a self-serving ego. It’s music that certainly has a love for the world, the positive vibes that can come with waking up every day in a different city and a feeling that Gallab has yet to set his feet (literally and figuratively) anywhere in particular. On the surface it appears to be a charmed life for Gallab, but the tireless hours spent crafting the meticulous Mean Love was not without sacrifice. 

“I learned so much from being involved with the Columbus D.I.Y. community. I’ll never forget that time in my life. It made me believe in family and community on an entirely new level.”

“I want to react to the time between Mars and Mean Love with a bit of enthusiasm,” says Gallab. “I wish I could, but I’ve spent all of this time working. I was living on my sister’s couch, working jobs that I hated, and I devoted 300 percent of myself to making Mean Love. I gave up my comfort for it.” 

In that loss though, Gallab admits to finding a community of like-minded musicians who helped shape his vision of Mean Love into the album it is today. Where his debut, 2008’s Color Voice, was a solitary collection of inward loops and melodies, Sinkane’s current model is a celebration of collaboration, harnessing the many connections made over the past few years into a vivid, vibrant, and sometimes chaotic kaleidoscope of living in the moment. It’s something Gallab readily attributes to his time spent in Columbus.

“I learned so much from being involved with the Columbus D.I.Y. community,” reflects Gallab on his evolution starting in hardcore with local bands Sweetheart and Pompeii This Morning, and onwards to what he is today. “I’ll never forget that time in my life. It made me believe in family and community on an entirely new level. I always try to focus all of that energy into Sinkane.”

Sinkane plays the Wexner Center on October 30. Visit wexarts.org for more.

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Music industry designates Blackout Tuesday as time of pause

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To honor the memory of George Floyd and fix the injustices surrounding his death, the music industry has designated Tuesday as a time of pause to collaborate on ways to better support the black community.

Businesses and organizations within the music industry have been asked to pause regular work to reflect on how they can better serve the black community, according to a report from Variety. In general, businesses and organizations across the board have been asked to use Tuesday as a way to focus on the effort.

The message that circulated around social media quickly on Monday stated that “Blackout Tuesday” is being used as “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community” and “an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change.”

The movement has been gaining momentum under the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused. Major labels such as Capitol Music Group and Warner Music Group announced their alignment with the “Blackout Tuesday” cause. 

Companies have also announced practices such as pausing social media activity throughout the whole day.

Spotify and ViacomCBS have already announced an 8 minute and 46-second moment of silence for Tuesday. The time reflects how long the Minnesota police officer dug his knee into the kneck of Floyd.

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Curbside Concerts brings live music, hope to those in need

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Can’tStopColumbus took a quick pause when the pandemic shut down the world and asked two questions:

  1. Are we sure we're solving the needs of everyone in our community during this time? 
  2. Are we not just coming up with ideas based on our own experiences?

Our elder community was one of the major demographics to have stricter socially distancing guidelines suggested to them. Holidays and birthdays went by without hugs from grandpa or grandma’s cookies.

Out of the need to fill that missing love in the life of American seniors, the idea of Curbside Concerts was born. Anyone is able to jump on the Curbside Concerts signup page and request a concert for an elder, sick people not able to leave the house, or a simple celebration.

Sending a concert telegram is free, and you can also leave a message for a loved one and suggest what type of tunes the organization-selected Columbus-area musician.

So far, the feedback has been inspiring. 

“People cried. I cried. We cried. It was beautiful,” said Zach Friedman, one of the service’s founders and creators. “We had a powerful idea on our hands, and the amazing power of the #Can'tStopColumbus community to scale it and bring it to life.”

To date, Curbside Concerts has had over 50 volunteers. Their job is to drive around a Columbus musician and their equipment with trucks provided by Ricart Automotive. It’s a road trip around the Columbus area, delivering concerts to those who may just need their spirits lifted. It’s like a non-depressing version of Inside Llewyn Davis.

Support has come from all ends of the Columbus creative community, including The Columbus Foundation, Greater Columbus Arts Council, Streetlight Guild, and What? Productions. Through these organizations, musicians are able to be paid for a route that usually lasts five to six hours. 100 percent of the donations they receive on their route also goes to the musicians.

Friedman is asking people to keep requests to older audiences.

“Working with local musicians to perform curbside at people's homes is the vehicle or medium, but the real thing we are doing here is connecting those to older people they love, with an authentic and emotional experience to send love over,” Friedman said.

We found out pretty quickly how much as a collective that we take live music for granted. Live streams have been a temporary, dulled-down replacement. You realize how long people have been robbed of the experience when you see a musician pull up in a pickup truck, set up in five minutes, and serenade neighborhoods with songs like “Lean on Me” and “What A Wonderful World.” It starts off with a message to one house and then resonates down the street, like the citizens of Gas Town rushing to The People Eater for even a drop of water.

Photos by Zak Kolesar

For most people, it was their first taste of live music since mid-March. While we may want concerts to return as soon as possible, its productions like Curbside Concerts that display the emotional power of music.

To request to send someone a concert, follow the link here: https://sendaconcert.herokuapp.com/request

To volunteer for Curbside Concerts, follow the link here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040b45abaa22a4fb6-curbside

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Arts & Culture

Live music allowed again in restaurants and bars: how will these establishments respond?

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A major step forward in the return of live music in Ohio took place over the weekend. The Ohio coronavirus guidelines were updated to reflect the new COVID-19 Dine Safe Ohio Order.

The order outlining the guidelines on live music in restaurant and bars is as follows:

Musicians and bands may perform in restaurants and bars as long as the individuals who are performing maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from all other people including, but not limited to, fellow performers and restaurant and bar patrons and staff.

DJ's are included along with musicians and bands in the order.

Something that was on the mind of a lot of musicians with the reopening of restaurants and the indefinite closing of large venues was how restaurants and bars were going to respond to the immediate venue demand. Places like Woodlands Tavern that already have an infrastructure for live music will have no problem complying with the updated order, but will restaurants and bars that depended on jukeboxes before pivot to a live music model?

With a lot more space available in restaurants due to capacity cuts, does this leave more room for a live music set up? Or will restaurants have to get rid of even more tables if they want to make room for a performer?

The thought of live music in a venue setting is alone enough to get excited about. How these places that now have the ability to host live music execute freeing up space for a band to set up or a DJ to bring his rig in while practicing social distancing is what makes this situation a tricky one.

Not being able to get down in a MojoFlo Soul Train line will be pretty tough, but it’s a tradeoff we’ll have to accept for the return of live music.

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