The last time Sinkane — aka singer-songwriter Ahmed Gallab — performed at The Mill in Iowa City, he was impressed with the beets. Those beets shouldn’t be confused with sonic beats.
“Someone came into The Mill after my show with sliced beets and I ate them,” Gallab said while calling from Phoenix. “I enjoyed them, and I hung out at The Mill until last call. That was in 2016. I can’t believe it’s been three years since I’ve been back. I’m overdue.”
Sinkane is touring behind his latest album, “Depayse,” which is French for “removed from one’s habitual surroundings.”
The title is apt for someone who was born in London, but grew up living in his native Sudan and two very different parts of America: Provo, Utah, and Columbus, Ohio.
“It was an adventure that allowed me to experience the world,” Gallab said. “My experiences from childhood had a profound impact on me. Perhaps the biggest impact was that it propelled me to have an open mind.”
Gallab, who spent summers in Sudan throughout his childhood, isn’t just open as a person, but also as a musician.
This son of college professors makes his own musical amalgam of jazz, rock, psychedelic, reggae, funk and Afro-pop.
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“My influences are disparate,” Gallab said. “I grew up listening to East African music as well as Bob Dylan, Bob Marley and Phil Collins. I love all kinds of music. I just write what comes out of me. I’m one who believes that you don’t write the songs, the songs write you. I mix things up.”
Much of “Depayse” is composed of Gallab singing in English and Arabic.
“I know you don’t hear songs like this very often but it works,” he said. “I don’t think this would be noticed so much if I sang in say English and Spanish or French. However, much of what is Arabic is divisive in this country. I get it. But I really think both languages work together in my music.”
New songs such as “Everyone” and “Everybody” are about diversity and inclusion. A number of the catchy and heavy tunes tell the story of the immigrant during the Trump era.
“It’s a fascinating time we’re living in,” Gallab said. “It’s challenging, particularly for immigrants. But what is going on in America isn’t new. It’s par for the course in human history. Racism and xenophobia have been with us for many years. But we need to find a way to finally make things better. A way for me to make things better is to do it through song. If people could only get out of America and see the world, you would see that we’re all the same. I have hope. Without hope we can’t progress as a society.”
Gallab has hope for America and for Sudan.
“There is no place like America,” Gallab said. “Americans who are born here often have no idea how fortunate they are to be Americans. You can make things happen here. It’s a wonderful place. It’s not perfect — there is so much to improve. However, I’m so inspired here. As for the Sudan, there is potential, but it’s not like the United States. A third of the Sudanese population lives outside of Sudan. There is a lot which can be improved upon in the Sudan.”
Bet on Gallab to stay late at The Mill, especially if someone brings beets.
“I’m all about hanging out at The Mill again. I would love some more beets,” he said. “I’m looking forward to coming back to Iowa City.”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday (10/8)
WHERE: The Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., Iowa City
TICKETS: $16 advance, $18 show day; Icmill.com
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Sinkane.com