Rafiki Jazz, from Sheffield in the UK confounds easy categorization. The band which includes musicians from the Senegalese and South Asian diasporas as well as British and refugee musicians has been called ‘the most diverse band in the UK’. The group’s website claims the band plays ‘jazz world’ music.
The jazz reference in their name continues a long tradition of African bands using the word: Bembeya Jazz National, TPOK Jazz, Dar es Salaam Jazz and Morogoro Jazz. Of course, the music these and countless other ‘jazz’ bands played while improvisational to some extent and solo-friendly sounded nothing like the American original. The African sounds were free wheeling and danceable with guitars being the primary heroes of the stage.
Rafiki Jazz draws deep on Africa for much of its sound which again bears little resemblance to the iconic bands named above. High in the mix is a powerful strain of Sufi music and Indian sangeet. Indeed, though the band’s name is African/Middle Eastern (rafiki=friends) most of the tracks make you think this is a subcontinental band, especially as the title Har Dam Sahara is emblazoned in Urdu on the cover.
This is an album full of wonderful sounds, pauses and instruments. Definitely a couple listens are required to start to an appreciation for the many jewels contained within. But I highly recommend this to friends of this blog even if it doesn’t technically qualify as South Asian.
- You Are Light
- Har Chand Sahara
- Jhooli Lal Qalandar
- Cheikh Amadou Bamba