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by World Music Network June 21, 2017


Rafiki Jazz: Har Dam Sahara

Rafiki Jazz celebrate unity in diversity with a unique shape-shifting and mesmeric sound. Rooted in modern Britain yet inspired by ancient musical traditions both near and far, Har Dam Sahara is a loveletter to this intricate world in all its beauty and complexity.

‘This is an elegant, mesmerising album of devotional songs’ The Guardian

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Rafiki Jazz create mesmeric music that resonates deep, bound through with the rich colour tones of the ancient musical heritages they explore. United in their mission to create a sound that crosses cultural boundaries, the music melds traditional vernaculars anew and expresses the power and beauty of difference. Spanning four different continents they seamlessly combine the sounds of some of the world’s most distinctive folk instruments including the West African kora, Caribbean steelpan, Indian tabla, Brazilian berimbau and Arabic ney & oudalong with inspirational vocals from the Sufi-soul singer Sarah Yaseen & Hebrew & Hindi vocalist Avital Raz.

Formed in Sheffield, UK in 2006 Rafiki Jazz began as a meeting between regional roots and jazz musicians with migrant and refugee artists. Today founding member and bassist Tony ‘Tk’ Koni remains at the helm steering the band’s collective artistic direction and co-producing. The album title Har Dam Sahara can be translated from Urdu as ‘In life’s every moment, there is always support’. A sage yet hopeful incantation reflected in many of the morals and messages of the songs. Marking a decade of Rafiki Jazz’s recording and touring adventures, this is an album which delivers a powerful commentary on the issues of migration, refugees and human rights.

The lion’s share of Har Dam Sahara was recorded at Yellow Arch Studios, Sheffield and Phipps Concert Hall at the University of Huddersfield. Rafiki Jazz’s approach in the studio was to capture a live sound with little room for overdubs or heavily involved post-production. The result is a tender and natural sounding work full of inflection and intensity that can only be heard in live ensemble playing. Regular performers at some of the biggest festivals and venues in the UK including Womad and the Southbank Centre, Rafiki Jazz’s creative process draws on the repertoire and technique of each band member alongside oral histories and folk songs from the archive. This unique cross-continental approach results in a compelling repertoire of devotional world music that draws on Pakistan and Senegal’s mystic Sufi traditions and ancient Middle Eastern Coptic and Hebrew liturgy, driven by the pulse of the orishas of Brazil’s Candomblé and the momentum of Indian sangeet.

Rafiki Jazz distil the meaning of their name in two-part translation: Rafiki for ‘friends’ and jazz for ‘freedom’. Their indefinable, many-sided music is testament to their shared respect for those two key values. Har Dam Sahara is a love-letter to complexity, an embracing of this intricate world within which we live, and a beautiful one at that.

RAFIKI JAZZ play Har Chand Sahara from Konimusic Ltd on Vimeo.