The Kennedy Center

Alsarah and the Nubatones


Alsarah and the Nubatones were born out of many dinner conversations between Alsarah and Rami El Aasser about Nubian ‘songs of return’, modern migration patterns and the cultural exchanges between Sudan and Egypt. A common love for the richness of pentatonic sounds, and shared migration experiences, expanded the conversation to include Armenian – American oud player Haig Manoukian and French born Togo raised bass player Mawuena Kodjovi. Under the leadership of Alsarah, the Brooklyn based group’s sound grew into what they have dubbed as ‘East – African retro-pop’.

In March of 2014 the group released their debut album “silt / ??? ” via Wonderwheel recordings to international acclaim and great reviews, with the single Soukura (it’s late) debuting on Spin magazine’s blog. October of the same year saw the release of “silt remixed” featuring remixes by Bodhisattva, Nickodemus, Captain Planet, Chancha Via Circuito, and many others. It also went on to be selected by the prestigious Fact magazine as one of the best remix albums of 2014.

Unfortunately that year also marked the passing of founding member Haig Manoukian from this world into the next. Taking his place is the brilliant oudist, and former student of Haig, Brandon Terzic. In addition the band have also grown to include the charismatic and talented vocalist Nahid as a full time member of
the band now.

Since their first show in October of 2011, the group has performed nationally and internationally at many prestigious festivals and venues. With audiences varying in age and ethnicity, the Nubatones has proven over and over that soul crosses all cultural and linguistic barriers.

Watch Past Performances

Video 6/20/2019: UNHCR, World Refugee Day

In partnership with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the National Geographic Society, join for a World Refugee Day commemoration honoring the millions of refugees and forcibly displaced people around the world and the communities that welcome them.

5:15 pm – 6:00 pm: A conversation with National Geographic Photo Camp refugee youth participants sharing stories of resilience, hope for their futures and connections to their new communities. With remarks from UNHCR and the National Geographic Society.

6:00 pm – 7:00 pm: A live performance by Alsarah & the Nubatones, an internationally acclaimed Brooklyn-based group with an authentic sound: ‘East – African retro-pop’. Their music features refugee themes including songs of displacement and returning home, as well as the cultural influences of Sudan and Egypt. With a diverse global audience, the Nubatones have proven over and over that soul crosses all cultural and linguistic barriers.

This event, and the National Geographic Photo Camp exhibition, continue the Kennedy Center’s season-long exploration of The Human Journey, a collaboration between the Kennedy Center, National Geographic Society, and the National Gallery of Art. The Human Journey invites audiences to investigate the powerful experiences of migration, exploration, identity, and resilience through the lenses of the performing arts, science, and visual art.

At the National Geographic Photo Camp program, young people including at-risk and refugee teens learn how to use photography to tell their own stories, explore the world around them, and develop deep connections with others. Learn more about this program at

 Alsarah and the Nubatones