Sudanese-born, Yemen-raised and Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and ethnomusicologist Alsarah returns with her band Alsarah & The Nubatones to deliver a much needed creamy dose of their trademark ‘East-African Retro-pop’ in the visuals for their new single ‘Ya Watan’. Born of many late night discussions about Nubian ‘Songs Of Return’, modern migration patterns, and cultural exchange between Sudan and Egypt, the group formed in 2011. Coming together through a common love for the richness of pentatonic sounds and shared migration experiences, their debut album ‘Silt’ dropped in 2014 to international critical acclaim.
Their latest silky-smooth single is a concoction of hypnotic pattering percussion that is at once traditional and contemporary, and the soothing harmonised vocals of Alsarah and Nahid. Alsarah herself explains that the single “is a meditation on how governments and political nation states have been failing our humanity for so long; now more glaring and obviously so than ever.” The track opens with a flurry of drums from Rami El Aasser, before talented Oudist Brandon Terzic joins the fray. Alsarah and Nahid’s spellbinding vocals swim in perfect harmony throughout; backed up by Mawuena Kodjovi’s melodic bass, as the track crescendos and builds in intensity and power, before its abrupt finish leave us with a startling feeling of absence.
The accompanying visuals complement the ethereal track perfectly. The stark contrast between the black and white images, overlaid in places with an almost iridescent filter, reflects the traditional yet contemporary origins of the track. Directed by Maryam Parwana, the video exemplifies her bold, experimental and emotionally stirring aesthetic. The barren landscape of Dead Horse Bay in Queens provides the perfect backdrop for the track, as Alsarah explains; “we wanted something bare and almost dead looking to match the song.”