Rafiki Jazz are a nine-piece global music collective from five different continents.
Exploring their wealth of musical styles and languages with a host of special guests, their fourth album further expands the realms of their rootsy repertoire.
Saraba Sufiyana means ‘Mystic Utopia’ in Urdu and opens gently; soft tones of an African kora, soothing voices, as an Arabic ney flute breezes through.
At that point, and considering the album title, you could be mistaken that this is about a surreal New Age harmonious landscape, yet, this is the real world, inspired by history, heritage, and a kindred spirit from their personal experiences as migrants and refugees longing for home.
Abound with iconic instruments from West Africa, the Middle East, India and South America, the album reveals a myriad of pleasing fusions.
I find it fascinating hearing the steel drum with the tabla, oud, and kora.
There are lesser-known instruments too – like the Brazilian berimbau – a lengthy single strung bow with a gourd attached for a resonator, it creates buzzes and twangs as the metal string is struck with a wooden stick.
Considering the populous of instruments and the intermix of world languages, the compositions still sound spacious and uncluttered.
A Punjabi wedding song is graced by the African kora, and a Kashmiri lullaby weaves its magic through a Scottish traditional waulking song, as guest Kaitlin Ross sings in Gaelic, for me, the pick of the album.
The beautiful melodic voices of Sarah Yaseen and Avital Raz really shine throughout, and elevate even the most cheerless of themes; a Passover song, and ‘Cajueiro’ – Portuguese for cashew, originating from an African slave chant from nut workers, it receives a ‘Rafikian’ adaptation which radiates warmth and sentiment.
As the final curtain falls on the last track, the poignant words ‘my heart my home’ lingers and fades, leaving me in a reflective mood, similar to just finishing the last word of an enthralling book.
I realise that Rafiki Jazz has bared their heart and soul – and of many others, a eulogy for displaced souls, delivered with love for all humanity.
Saraba Sufiyana is a totally absorbing experience of distinct quality, it’s an enlightening historical discovery on a musical journey that will stay etched into my memory.
I can’t think of any other album that can do that.
Artist – Rafiki Jazz
Title – Saraba Sufiyana
Released – 18 October 2019
Label – Koni Music (KoniCD011)
Genre – World/Folk