1.30.18 Alsarah (1).jpg

This Sudanese Brooklynite and leader of Alsarah & the Nubatones earned her BA in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University. So she can’t help but to look at music from a global standpoint. It’s also not surprising that she has been influenced by musicians across the Diaspora, like Tanzanian singer Bi Kidude, American blues singer Bessie Smith, and the iconic Jamaica-born Grace Jones, to name a few.

Alsarah is a living testament to the universality of music, and witnessing others feel deeply about her work; “watching someone's face at that magical moment when they see themself in [her] music” brings her great joy. She is as passionate about keeping borders open in the world, “physically, politically, culturally and spiritually,” as she is about working and creating at her own pace. It’s no wonder—The advice she would have given her younger self is that “Nothing looks familiar because you are carving your own path,” and her definition of a powerful woman is “A woman who does what she wants, when she wants and on her own terms.”

More than individual power, though, Alsarah is concerned with the collective. “African women have always united against adversity...We have been the catalyst for change for decades and decades. You can even say it's traditional at this point,” she points out. “The real question is how come no one documents it?” The child of human rights activists, Alsarah does not hesitate to present her views on world issues, and the issues of her native Sudan. Her signature sound chronicles an amalgam of East African, Arabic and Nubian influences, and keeps a record of her thoughts. On “Ya Watan,” translating to “Oh Homeland,” featured on the 2016 Alsarah and the Nubatones album Wanara, she sings about her birthplace, telling NPR’s Nurith Aizenman, “For me it's about issues in Sudan from the moment I left it and how that is still so relevant...I feel like I'm watching everyone go through what happened to Sudan in 1989. The collapse of government, the coups. It just feels like it never stops." As a musician and activist, Alsarah carries on the tradition of African women as a force behind growth but on her watch, she’s making sure the stories are recorded.

MUSICTeneille Craig