Sinkane played an inspiring show at the Bootleg Theater Saturday night in celebration of Life and Livin’ It, released in February. The album contains nine tracks of pure groove, meandering through the territories of electro-funk, Afrobeat, and psychedelic soul, peppered with synth-heavy disco influences.
The nearly two-hour set began with catchy lead single “Uh Huh,” which showcases bongos and a funky sax line that zigs and zags about playfully. Bandleader Ahmed Gallab (for whom Sinkane is an alias) hit the high notes, his falsetto effortlessly draping over the sunshine-y beats. The jubilant chorus is a repeated chant of: “Kulu shi tamaam” which means “everything is great” in Arabic, Gallab’s native language.
In these uncertain times of political polarization, Sinkane oozes a sorely needed brand of infectious positivity. Many lyrics espouse hope and love while being matter-of-fact about persevering in the face of challenges. The Sinkane drum kit is even emblazoned with the image of a hand making a peace sign, perfectly encapsulating the ethos of universal kindheartedness that seems to be this band’s calling card.
The live show was altruistically anthemic, but also a party. Energetic dancing was in full-swing within the first few songs, particularly for disco beat “Telephone” which begins with electronic synth blips and unfolds with a supremely funky bass riff and brassy horns.
Sinkane managed to impart a sense of upbeat energy even to songs on the lower end of the danceability threshold. Well below the BPM of a dance track, “Won’t Follow” unites expansive vocals, sparse bongos and mild-mannered percussion for a downtempo house-sounding groove that still gets you tapping your toes.
Sinkane enlisted members of LA-based African Jazz group Ethio Cali to play trumpet and saxophone for the live show. The horns were stationed at the back, engulfed in ethereal smoke throughout most of the performance, making the sax and trumpet lines delightfully surreal when they surfaced in the instrumentation; as if the ghost of a horn section haunted The Bootleg.
Perhaps the best surprise of the live show was Amanda Khiri (vocals). Wearing a “Life and Livin’ It” shirt and dancing ebulliently, she was an absolute show-stopper both in her vocal range and spunky presence. Gallab and Khiri worked in tandem beautifully, and often Gallab passed the torch for Khiri to take the lead on vocals.
Sinkane closed the show with “Fire” and “How We Be.” Slinky and self-assured, “How We Be” boasts funky basslines and the grooviest xylophone riff you’ll ever hear. The chorus is Gallab and Khiri’s melodic falsetto chants of: “Yeah, we’ve got life right in the pocket”– perhaps an homage to to the musical phrase ‘playing in the pocket,’ when a group is in perfect cohesion, on beat, and just doing it.
It’s rare that a L.A. crowd breaks out of its lofty nonchalance to dance with wild abandon in the way this crowd did for Sinkane. Even rarer for a live show to affect at a deeper level, speaking right to your heart with a sense of inclusivity and connectedness. Sinkane did both, pulling off the musical equivalent of a group hug while truly playing in the pocket.
Sinkane’s Tour continues: Dates can be found here
*UPDATE*: see Sinkane’s recent performance on Conan here