Saturday 17 December 2016

Kefaya "Radio International"

Kefaya have variously been described as "internationalist music", "guerrilla jazz" and "global protest music". They are a loose collective from London that was started in 2011 by guitarist Giuliano Modarelli and pianist Al MacSween and has grown over the years through their international travels to collaborate with renowned performers from the worlds of Flamenco, Indian classical and Arabic music. They take their name from the Arabic word for "Enough" which became the catch cry for a movement for change in Egypt during the Arab Spring uprising.

Each track on the CD is effectively prefaced by a spoken word snippet from various radio stations around the world, and from different moments in history. Themes of equality and liberation are woven throughout. The opening Ethio Jazz infused track "Indignados" is a cracker, taking inspiration from the Spanish movement of the same name and letting rip with some wild saxophone riffs along the way. On "Intifada" ( with fabulous Oud solo, massed chanting voices, and the sound of choppers overhead) one can easily imagine oneself in the midst of the Palestinian struggle for a secure homeland.

"Bella Ciao" is a brilliantly upbeat, ska version of the classic Italian anti-fascist anthem. "New Routes" references the problems of so many refugees and migrants arriving in such overwhelming numbers in places like Lampedusa and could easily have been recorded in Kingston, Jamaica. It layers the beautiful Italian Solento vocals of Alessia Tondo over some seriously heavyweight dub reggae. "Manush" (featuring Deborshee Batacharjee) and "Symphony" (featuring the soaring vocals of Nicki Wells) both take us to the heart of ethnic and economic struggles on the Indian sub-continent, through sublime sounds that Nitin Sawhney would have been proud of creating (Sawhney himself describes Kefaya as  "a unique voice" and Wells has lent her voice to his music in the past)

"Protesta Flamenca" revisits Spain with some classy flamenco guitar and plaintive Gypsy vocals to pull on our heart strings, and "Whistleblower" brings a touch of sinister electronica (Edward Snowden's exploits come to mind as the possible inspiration) and dubstep beats to finish the set with a flourish. As a debut release, they don't come much stronger than this.

In the face of recent dispiriting political developments worldwide, many of us could easily feel somewhat dejected about the lack of a future for our offspring. But if we wish to gain some inspiration, and to feel reconnected to the ongoing global struggle for peace, tolerance, equality and justice for all, we can invest in a copy of "Radio International".