We Belong, is the eighth studio album from Sinkane, a band led by multi-instrumentalist Ahmed Gallab. And like much of Sinkane’s previous releases, it resists genre. It’s pop. It’s funk. It’s electronic. It blends the gritty punk newness of a 70s and 80s New York with the steady, foundational soul of the rhythms of his native Sudan. Though We Belong comes deep into the catalog of a long career, it also resists stagnation. It moves and travels—through words and eras, through emotion and healing. Gallab calls this album his “love letter to Black music,” and each track pulses with the energy of different eras and forms: the gospel-soaked “Everything Is Everything,” the dreamy, Quiet Storm-influenced Afro-beats of “Rise Above,” the 70s-funk of “We Belong” and its Sly Stone influence, the Stevie Wonder-edged “Another Day”—they tell a story about Black music and Black people.
The album itself also reveals Gallab’s desire to create a work that not only reflected a community, but was made by one, too. We Belong assembles this community, makes it visible, to anyone willing to see, to hear, to feel. Gallab and Amanda Khiri, co-lyricist on most of the songs, passed notes across the digital divide. Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Ismael Reed, scraps of poetry. The pair turned these late-night ideas into fully realized compositions. Casey Benjamin, a multi-instrumentalist who has worked with jazz pianist Robert Glasper, left his touch on several tracks. Jazz trumpeter Kenyatta Beasley soared across three songs. Soul singer Bilal lent his voice. Rising artists like vocalists Ifedayo Gatling, of the Harlem Gospel Travelers, Tru Osbourne, Hollie Cook, and STOUT, joined this community as well.
What had long been a solo endeavor by Gallab, suddenly became a collaborative experience. “Having all these people at my disposal [meant] I could actually be a producer,” he says. “I could zoom out a little bit and see what serves the song best? How can I make this better? Having a community around me really just allowed this to turn into something bigger than I could have ever imagined.”
The result is an album that showcases freedom, in all its forms. Freedom to create, to move, to love, to live. The we of the title is all of us. All of us who have lost and found community. All of us who have reached into the past to find our future. And ultimately, it is the sound of an artist finding his way back to himself by stretching beyond himself. “In making this album, I realized very quickly that I got a lot of freedom in not making it about myself,” Gallab says. “I realized I'm more than just me, there's all of us, all of us together. It's much more about community and much more about connecting with other people. But maybe, that's how I've kind of come to find myself.”