The singer, violinist, and beatmaker known as Sudan Archives has swiftly joined the ranks of R&B innovators such as FKA twigs, Solange, and SZA, says The New York Times, through an extraordinary combination of “instinct, happenstance, discipline, and research”—not to mention being “a solo phenomenon online and onstage.”
After a group of fiddlers visited her fourth-grade class in Cincinnati, Brittney Denise Parks went home and asked for a violin. With a preternatural ear for picking up melodies from the radio and the help of her church choir, she spent the next few years teaching herself to play. Then came YouTube. From her bedroom, Parks began to scour the platform for videos of the one-string fiddle players of West Africa and much more. She discovered the Czech violinist Iva Bittová and the Estonian violinist Maarja Nuut, the Canadian worldbeat band Barrage and the Cameroonian electronic composer Francis Bebey.
With a digital looping station, she spun her violin and voice into airy hip-hop beats in which all these newfound influences swirled. Sink, a critical breakout from 2018, was followed the next year by Athena, where she developed a full-fledged pop sound that clad classically proportioned songs in inventive, bespoke settings. Pitchfork praised it for its “impressive depth of field. The bass scoops lower, the grooves get deeper and funkier, and the layers of her violin parts give the illusion of a full orchestra.” It came with the imprimatur of Stones Throw Records and expanded the heady hip-hop bastion’s already capacious borders.