HomeCultureRecords That Changed My Life

Sinkane: Records that changed my life


7th Mar 2024 Records That Changed My Life

5 min read

Sinkane: Records that changed my life
Sinkane (aka Sudanese-American songwriter, composer and producer Ahmed Gallab) is set to return with his eighth studio album We Belong in April. He tells us about the records that changed his life

Radiohead—OK Computer

Radiohead are my favourite band, I think of all time. They're like the band of my life. I could, pretty confidently, tell you where I was upon every Radiohead album release, starting from The Bends.
OK Computer was one of those monumental records as a teenager that I heard and just completely changed my life—setting me on this trajectory of music that I was interested in. It’s a record that, to this day, I can listen to it front to back, not be bored by any bit of it and find something new and interesting in every single song.
I find that I can go back to a song that I've written in Sinkane, find this interesting thing that I did, and realise that, oh, yeah, that's, that's from “Exit Music (For a Film)” or it feels like a Selway drum fill. That’s how influential they are to me.
"It was one of those monumental records as a teenager that just completely changed my life"
I can imagine it being like Dark Side of the Moon for someone from my parents’ generation, where you you're just so fresh and green, and kind of like a musical sponge as a kid. And that's what that album is for me. “The Tourist” is my favourite song on that album. It doesn't say much in the best way—it has a lot of space. The space is what’s so exciting to me in that song. It’s like a brain pacifier—it makes me feel so good.
Everyone that I know that loves that record, they make very electronic music. It inspired them to make this digital stuff, and they always reference OK Computer. But that record isn't really digital at all. It's just a band playing guitars and a few synthesisers, but really just lots of guitars and big drums. So how they were able to do that and give people the feeling of something else is just genius.

Pharaoh Sanders—Karma

pharoah sanders
Jazz has been a big thing in my life. My dad is a big jazz head and introduced me to Miles Davis. In my early twenties, when I was starting Sinkane, I remember I had my walk to work as a sous chef at a restaurant and on the walk home I’d get a book or CD from the library. One day I saw Pharaoh Sanders’ Karma and, embarrassingly, I didn’t know much about him, even though I was a big John Coltrane fan. The cover looked great and I checked it out.
I went home and put it on and it was just like a burst of colour that exploded in my brain. As the song “The Creator Has a Master Plan” played it was just a musical landscape. I listened to that record every single day for three months, nonstop. It was that and Brian Eno’s Discreet Music, those two records.
It was right around the time that I was starting Sinkane and I knew from the beginning that it’s always been an exercise for me to find out who I am, in an existential way but also in a musical way, because I played in bands my whole life, but there were always collaborative bands. Sinkane was like me in a sandbox all on my own, figuring out the things that I liked and how to incorporate these musical ideas that I've always loved since I was a kid all on my own, and that just opened up the floodgates for me.
That record even to this day, takes me to another place. I can listen to Pharoah Sanders’  records on Impulse! Records every single day.

Erykah Badu—New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)

erykah badu
That album came out right around the same time that I discovered Pharoah Sanders so I was about 20 to 23 years old. My sister was a big Erykah Badu fan. I was listening to one of the songs in her room and I was like, “What is going on? What is this?”.
I think psychedelic hip hop owes a lot to this record. I think it really helped spawn a very specific sound—a fusion of jazz, classic hip hop and new technology to create this immersive, dream-like, sound.
There was a new breed of young, Black musicians in New York and Philadelphia, and in LA, that we're all kind of schooled on, on jazz and hip hop. It was exactly what I wanted to hear. It reminded me of the first time I heard Parliament Funkadelic and how important George Clinton’s sound and ideas were to me.
"Psychedelic hip hop owes a lot to this record—with a fusion of jazz, classic hip hop and new technology"
This is a record I still listen to and I analyse all the time, just wondering how they're able to infuse new technology with old ideas, and that one just is so beautiful. Her poetry and lyrics on that record are just so amazing, introspective and self-aware.
I think it was the first record that she made after she had a huge writer's block. And so she had all these amazing ideas, and all these people kind of came together. And then they created a live show that was just the most inspiring live show I think I've ever seen.
“The Healer” is such a wonderful, beautiful song. “Honey” and “Master Teacher” were really important to me too. “Master Teacher” is the primary influence for a new song on my new album called “Rise Above”—how that song takes a crazy left turn.

Sa-Ra Creative Partners—Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love

That record came out around the same time as New Amerykah Part One. The producers, like Om’Mas Keith and Shafiq Husayn, contributed to the Erykah Badu record too. They are, I think, some of the most creative, amazing producers and songwriters of our generation—I think they're just unbelievable. They’ve worked with Kanye and Frank Ocean too.
The way they all came together on Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love, I think is just even more far out than New Amerykah: Part One. Nuclear Evolution is literally the genesis of what I think has evolved now into psychedelic hip hop production. When I heard it, I listened to it every day for an entire summer. And I go back to it, and I'm like, how do they chop up the samples? How do they take the drum programming to a whole other level? They’re these wonderful, psychedelic songs. The way they use synthesisers and the way they manipulate sounds is so immersive and beautiful. It’s just crazy genius.
“He Say She Say” is a crazy one. It’s just weird, with this looped drumbeat that’s disorientating and pretty cool. “The Bone Song” is a funny one and they do a good Sly Stone cover as well (“Just Like a Baby”). This record feels very nocturnal, like you’re driving at two in the morning and it feels like you’re in outer space.

On his new Sinkane album We Belong

I feel like I've started something new with this album and feel like I finally figured out my voice. If I go back and listen to previous Sinkane records there, they're really great but I can hear myself experimenting a lot. Whereas this new album, I know how to kind of extract the feeling and the nature of the ideas that I have, and bring them together to create a cohesive sound.
"With this record I feel like I finally figured out my voice"
These records in particular, really helped open me up. Sa-Ra and Erykah are the peak of genius to me. And that's where I want to get to. I want to be able to create something that's artistic and genius but is still so easy to digest. You know, it's not too crazy, far out free jazz kind of stuff, but something that's just interesting.
we belong
Sinkane’s We Belong (City Slang) is out April 5
*This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.
Banner photo: Chloe Morales-Pazant
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter