18 Mar 2017

Interview: Sinkane | WOMAD 2017

From RNZ Music, 2:30 pm on 18 March 2017
Ahmed Gallab from Sinkane.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

It is Music 101 tradition that we take a tour around the first night of WOMAD Taranaki with one of the visiting acts. This year's honour goes to Sinkane's Ahmed Gallab who, as a bit of festival and touring pro, gives away some secrets and magic of festival life.

We walk past BAYNK's late night set, the audience largely comprises of the under-age and the student-aged. The  front row are reminiscent of a pep rally loudly chanting "I love Baynk! Baynk loves me!" to the young electro-dance producer. The scene takes Ahmed back to his early days in high school bands

"It's beautiful space to be in as a fan, especially if it is a local person, because you get to see someone who feels larger than life but they're still close to you. And as an artist it's the first check-mark that makes you realise you're doing something that people are into."

Previously the touring "gun-for-hire" for indie acts such as Yeasayer and Of Montreal, this isn't Ahmed's first time playing in New Zealand, but it is his first time as the frontman of his own band. The enthusiasm and pride he clearly exhibits is underscored by the fact Sinkane is playing material from their just-released album Life and Living It.

"It's better than anything I could have ever imagined in my entire life. Now the band is fully-formed, it's more realised than it ever had been we've been able to travel the entire world and play many different shows with all of the elements that I used to record the album so it feels great!"

Heading towards the food stalls and market we take in the Bowl of Brooklyn stage and its surrounding natural amphitheatre , Ahmed declares "this is probably the best WOMAD I've been to...there's something about the intimacy of this, being in the woods and just feels like you're in a dream". It is easy to get swept up in the balmy, leafy wonderment of Taranaki's Bowl of Brooklands by night, and more so for someone who sings "Kulu shi tamaam/we're all gonna be alright" ("Kulu shi tamaam" Arabic for "Everything is great!").

Having performed at WOMADelaide, WOMAD UK ("it's so massive") this was Sinkane's third leg of the world music extravaganza.  We roam past the night stalls peddling "drop crotch pants", "rasta flags", "dreamcatchers", and those "jingle-jangle things you put on your ankles", aspects which were very familiar to the performer.

"It is the quintessential clothing festival area...everyone who goes to a festival at least buys one thing from one of these stalls."

Though Ahmed points out that there is one big difference between this seemingly ubiquitous market and ones in the States: "There'd be one stall dedicated to Grateful Dead shirts...they're one of my favourite bands...they're the greatest band in America of all time."

Ahmed Gallab from Sinkane.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Ahmed speaks with a convincing hyperbole, especially as we move into another familiar festival zone: the food area. "that is the most important part of the festival. Eating." He lists all the foods he's tried (Bahn mi, goat curry, dumplings), which is rather impressive at it is only the first night of WOMAD. But he quickly adds, "and listen to the bands."

We wind our way back down to the main stage where Friday night headliners The Specials have just kicked off their set. "This might be one of the greatest festivals in the world!" Ahmed declares "The energy here is so unbelievable, I'm so happy to be a part of this." Ever the optimist he heads off back up the mound back to his accomodation while I plunge into the pogo-ing ska--loving crowd.