Live Review: Sudan Archives, Philadelphia, PA, March 13, 2020

Sold out well in advance, the last show of Sudan Archives’ first U.S. tour threatened to be a ghost town after several days of cascading cancellations due to COVID-19, but by the time she took the stage, 100 or so brave and/or reckless fans spread out to fill Johnny Brenda’s.

Her one-of-kind synthesis of Sudanese fiddle music, R&B, electronica and classical motifs—largely drawn from last year’s debut LP, Athena (Stones Throw)—flowed almost like a suite over the course of her set and an encore nearly equal in length. In a time when it’s good to be anywhere, it felt especially good to be in the presence of an artist with such exquisite control of her craft and emotional expression. (Even if nine out if 10 doctors might’ve advised her against shaking hands so exuberantly with some rando whose face she couldn’t possibly have seen as he reached toward her from the darkness of the crowd.)

Cartel Madras opened with a clutch of Indian-Canadian femme hip-hop numbers that showed off their flow and hinted at a broad worldview but exceeded the maximum parts per million of “bitch.”

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich

Cartel Madras