Meet the Band: Ahmed Gallab (vocals), Jason Trammell (drums), Jonathan Lam (guitar), Ish Montgomery (bass)
Ohio Roots: Born in London, bandleader Ahmed Gallab, who records under the name Sinkane, moved to the States when he was 5. He played his first show when he was 11. While in high school in Kent, he saw Spiritualized play at the Agora and was transformed. "They blew my mind," he says. "I had never even heard of them before that night. I was so blown away by the experience and how captivating it was. It really influenced me. It was a gnarly show. It was really, really cool."
A Session Guy: Back in 2007, Gallab was living in Columbus, and he and some friends drove to Cleveland to see Cleveland rockers HotChaCha open for indie rockers Caribou. He passed his record to Caribou's Dan Snaith and soon started jamming with them. "I was a huge fan of that band," he says. "I told them my music was inspired and influenced by his story and his music. He wrote me back and really liked my music. The drummer Brad [Weber] broke his wrist for two months so I went out with them." He also played with indie rockers Yeasayer and Of Montreal before embarking on a solo career. "It was a hard transition," he admits. "Playing with Caribou or of Montreal or Yeasayer gets really comfortable. You play music for a living but you don't have that much responsibility. When you go back to your own thing, it's like starting at square one. I had to learn to do everything myself. Ultimately, it's totally worth it. It's what I wanted to do and I want it to be as successful as the bands I played in. I'm very happy that I made the leap and just want to get better from here."
Why You Should Hear Them: Last year's Mean Love is a wildly eclectic album that gets into a good groove right from the start. The album opener "How We Be," the first single, features ricocheting electronic bleeps and blips as Gallab adds soulful vocals. The accompanying music video serves as an ode to New York with its images of various neighborhoods. It includes step, ballet, breakdancing and other styles of dance, appropriately mixing together different art forms, just like the music that the London-born Sudanese producer makes. "With the record [Mean Love], I wanted to take on the idea that I started on with [2012's] Mars," he says. "It's about my African influence —Sudanese and East African sounds and reggae. I wanted to bring all those influences together and create some kind of melting pot. I found a relationship between all those types of music — African, country western, soul, funk, reggae — they have a similar vibe. The people who make that music come from similar places."
Where You Can Hear Them: sinkane.com.
Where You Can See Them: Sinkane performs at 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 6, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.