Happy Release Day to Kefaya + Elaha Soroor

Today at Bella Union we are pleased to share this collaborative record from Kefaya + Elaha Soroor. Celebrate with the collective this weekend at their two Rough Trade shows + catch them later in the year at their London Rich Mix release show.

Afghan singer Elaha Soroor and award-winning music/producer duo Kefaya have joined forces for a mighty and mesmerising new album, Songs Of Our Mothers; a fresh, vibrant take on Afghan folk music filtered through myriad forms, from spiritual jazz and dub to Indian classical music and electronica. Early acclaim for Songs Of Our Mothers:

“A thoroughly modern, multicultural masterpiece… In an era of increasing isolationism, misogyny and religious fundamentalism, this album becomes a defiant celebration of freedom and internationalism.” Uncut – 9/10

“takes traditional Afghan folk songs and give them thoroughly modern settings… Soroor sounds as at home singing Farsi–language reggae, Indian jazz, Maghrebi pop or post–punk… Kefaya delight in tracing Elaha’s journey, crossing sonic borders into Iran, Armenia, Turkey and North Africa.” MOJO – 4 stars ****

“An exotic genre-blend of jazz, dub and electronica… Soroor’s voice is beautifully expressive. The showstopper comes with the Radiohead-ish piano ballad, Khina Beyarin, where Soroor fully reveals her dazzling talent.” Q

“Telling tales of the suffering and hardship endured by women but also celebrating their endurance and femininity, these songs are reworked by Soroor and Kefaya to create powerful, thought–provoking music.” Rock’n”Reel – 4 stars ****

“Recorded in Oxford with international zeal, this excellent release brings together folk songs traditionally sung by Afghan women, telling stories of joy, pain and resilience… The beauty of Soroor’s mother language, and the wide-ranging culture it encompasses, is palpable throughout.” Jazzwise  – 4 stars ****

Songs Of Our Mothers is a collection of folk songs traditionally performed by Afghan women, drawing on Elaha’s own experience of fleeing Afghanistan and the struggle faced by many other female artists. The US and Western-backed regimes that came to dominate Afghanistan in the latter part of the 20th century created a climate of heightened patriarchal oppression and persecution of women.

These songs tell stories of joy, pain and resilience, passed from mother to daughter in times of hardship and oppression whilst also celebrating femininity, sensuality and the spirit of resistance. As Elaha says, this album is for “those women around the world whose image has been erased, and whose voice has been forbidden.”

Born in Iran into a family of Afghan-Hazara refugees, and returning to Afghanistan in 2004, Elaha Soroor first rose to fame through the reality TV show Afghan Star. Her rising popularity in a society known for its persecution of female performers combined with her outspoken views on women’s rights led to an environment of serious personal danger and Elaha was eventually forced to flee Afghanistan. 

After arriving in London as a refugee, Elaha was introduced to guitarist Giuliano Modarelli and pianist Al MacSween, founders of award-winning international collective Kefaya. Driven by a shared desire to use music as a tool for political dialogue and action, together they forged the themes, concept and sound of Songs Of Our Mothers

The bulk of the album was arranged and recorded in just a few days in Oxford with long-time Kefaya drummer Joost Hendricks. Kefaya produced and further developed the album, with contributions from a host of world renowned musicians. The international line-up, spanning homelands such as UK, Italy, India, Iran & Greece, reflects the album’s global perspective and the way that Kefaya work in collaboration, drawing on multiple sounds and outlooks to present a united front of spirited musical and political expression.

As Elaha says: “In the eyes of the world, Afghan identity is defined by terrorism, war, the Taliban and uneducated, domesticated women who need help. I have tried to show other associations with Afghanistan such as the beauty of my mother language (Farsi) and the diversity of our music. Although women are currently facing extreme violence in Afghanistan, I see a lot of similar problems encountered in different ways in Western countries and across the world. This is part of a universal struggle.”

Penelope Isles share ‘Round’ video

Brighton based brother/sister led quartet Penelope Isles released their incredible debut album Until the Tide Creeps In this Summer via Bella Union, and are about to embark on their first-ever North American tour. Today the band are pleased to announce that TOLEDO will be joining them on their upcoming tour dates, and release a music video for “Round” to celebrate. Watch the video now and get your tickets to an upcoming show near you HERE.

The band’s  Jack Wolter, who directed the music video as well as wrote and produced the track, says: 

“‘Round’ was the first song I wrote when I moved to Brighton a few years ago. I wrote it on a dan electro 12 string, which I had to sell to pay the rent. We played the song constantly when we first started gigging and ended up leaving it out of the set for a while. We revisited it, as it felt weird to not include it on this record. We made the video in Brighton on one of the hottest days of the year. It consists of footage of Lily, dressed in a large round blow-up suit that pulsates with bright psychedelic colours and floating images of the band. We had a laugh making this one!” 

Penelope Isles are also pleased to share Penny Isles TV, a new way for fans to keep up to date with the band while they are on the road. Watch episode 2, which features outtakes from the bands first trip to SXSW earlier this year!

Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith share ‘La Maison de Rimbaud’

A sonic cross-continental experience, Mummer Love is the second album in the Perfect Vision triptych collaboration between Soundwalk Collectiveand Patti Smith. The album, which features guest contributions fromPhillip Glass and Mulatu Astatke, will be released 8th November via Bella Union. Having previous shared the track “Eternity”, Soundwalk Collective and Patti Smith today unveil “Le Maison de Rimbaud” which features Philip Glass on piano.

For this body of work, Soundwalk Collective journeyed to Africa to explore the intricacies of Arthur Rimbaud’s most obscure period. After leaving France and what he deemed the ‘western stagnation’, Rimbaud found himself in Harar, Ethiopia – an epicenter of Sufism in Africa. Sufi practise focuses on the renunciation of worldly things, the purification of the soul and the mystical contemplation of God’s nature. Sufism is a mystical form of Islam, and its music is about reaching a communal ecstatic state, and once you find yourself there, you are granted access to the unknown. The Soundwalk Collectivespent time with the Sufi group of Sheikh Ibrahim to record their music and chants in the shrine with the use of Audio-Technica microphones. “You obtain connections to other levels of yourself and consciousness,” Stephan Crasneanscki mentions of the musical process. “This connection, like poetry, is a universal language. A language of the soul, for the soul.”

As with the other albums in the triptych, the Collective searched for hidden, earthy sounds that hold memories and embed existence. For Mummer Love, they also found themselves recording under the tree where Rimbaud photographed the shrine of Sheik Abadir Umar ar-Rida al Harari, the founder of the holy city Harar. “As the rain fell, I wondered if I was hearing the drops hitting the leaves the same way Rimbaud did 140 years ago,” Crasneanscki says. These sounds and Sufi chants coexist with Patti Smith’s interpretation of Rimbaud’s poems, as she recites and sings among them in a call and response, sharing the same musical and spiritual space.

Smith’s only poem is the title track “Mummer Love”, written to Rimbaud; her words are rooted in multiple aspects of the self: from the passion of a lover to the care of a mother, and everything in between. Further contributions to this album come from Mulatu Astatke, widely considered the father of Ethio-jazz, and Phillip Glass, who’s long felt a connection to Sufi music – here coming together and evoking a call and response between piano and vocals of the Sufi masters. It is simultaneously the first time Glass collaborates with Smith, and so Harar becomes an extraordinary meeting place for all to celebrate the beauty of Rimbaud’s work.

Referring to the overall work, Smith likens the project to a fourth mind equation. “Because we are working with other people’s work, and not just reading it but channelling these people, they become a fourth mind. We are Rimbaud, you, I, and the work,” Smith says in conversation with Crasneanscki. The unification of all minds together magnifies its power and potential. “It makes me think of Rimbaud’s energy, his strong will,” Smith says. “If we, the living, send out radio and energy waves, the energy of those last poems is still reverberating. It can’t be silenced, because we understand that this work and the artists are not dead, they find life when we are recording them.”

Entitled The Perfect Vision, this musical triptych, which has been co-produced with Leonardo Heiblum and supported by the Analogue Foundation, aims to go beyond 20/20 vision and explore a dimension that exists on a non-physical plane. What one can physically see is only the beginning – this project transcends what we think we see, by multiplying experiences, languages and energies. “We went through places like Mexico, Ethiopia and India to search for a perfect vision, in spaces where you can still feel a sacred presence – where the Gods are still among you,” says Crasneanscki. “In this idea of perfect vision, there is the idea of oneness, and with that comes a sense of supreme love.”

Mummer Love will be released 8th November, to mark the anniversary of the death of Arthur Rimbaud, on 10th November (1891). 

Kefaya + Elaha Soroor share ‘Gole Be Khar’

With their new album Songs Of Our Mothers due for release this Friday, 27th September, via Bella Union, Kefaya + Elaha Soroor have shared a new track “Gole  Be Khar”. Of the track the band say: “Gole Be Khar is a folk song in the Herati dialect of north-western Afghanistan. Generally in Afghan society women are forbidden to openly express love and desire for a man as this is considered shameless by some parts of the society. In this song the woman is expressing her secret feeling and desire for her lover.”

Afghan singer Elaha Soroor and award-winning music/producer duo Kefaya have joined forces for a mighty and mesmerising new album, Songs Of Our Mothers; a fresh, vibrant take on Afghan folk music filtered through myriad forms, from spiritual jazz and dub to Indian classical music and electronica. 

“A thoroughly modern, multicultural masterpiece… In an era of increasing isolationism, misogyny and religious fundamentalism, this album becomes a defiant celebration of freedom and internationalism.” Uncut – 9/10

“takes traditional Afghan folk songs and give them thoroughly modern settings… Soroor sounds as at home singing Farsi–language reggae, Indian jazz, Maghrebi pop or post–punk… Kefaya delight in tracing Elaha’s journey, crossing sonic borders into Iran, Armenia, Turkey and North Africa.” MOJO – 4 stars ****

“An exotic genre-blend of jazz, dub and electronica… Soroor’s voice is beautifully expressive. The showstopper comes with the Radiohead-ish piano ballad, Khina Beyarin, where Soroor fully reveals her dazzling talent.” Q

“Telling tales of the suffering and hardship endured by women but also celebrating their endurance and femininity, these songs are reworked by Soroor and Kefaya to create powerful, thought–provoking music.” Rock’n”Reel – 4 stars ****

“Recorded in Oxford with international zeal, this excellent release brings together folk songs traditionally sung by Afghan women, telling stories of joy, pain and resilience… The beauty of Soroor’s mother language, and the wide-ranging culture it encompasses, is palpable throughout.” Jazzwise  – 4 stars ****

Songs Of Our Mothers is a collection of folk songs traditionally performed by Afghan women, drawing on Elaha’s own experience of fleeing Afghanistan and the struggle faced by many other female artists. The US and Western-backed regimes that came to dominate Afghanistan in the latter part of the 20th century created a climate of heightened patriarchal oppression and persecution of women.

Dog In The Snow debuts ‘Dual Terror’ video

Having last month announced the release of new album Vanishing Lands, available 15th November via Bella Union, Dog In The Snow today share a dark and visually arresting b/w video for new single “Dual Terror”, directed by Jay Bartlett. Of the track Helen Ganya Brown aka Dog In The Snow says: “I had a dream that I met a different version of myself, one that I met alone in an abandoned house. The song parallels that with the paranoia of the end of the world, and our obsession with the apocalypse.” Of the video Jay Bartlett adds: “This track was cagey, paranoid and a real trip through a dream. I wanted to mess with expectations/reality and make an over the top tripped out horror. This was a fun one, I let most of the edit do the heavy lifting and made sure the mad shit kept ramping up.”

Dog In The Snow’s album debut for Bella Union is Vanishing Lands, as imposing, haunting and luminous collection of songs in the darker spaces between dream-pop, art-rock and electronica, lifted by euphoric melodies, ravishing vocals and absorbing lyrics. The album was initially created at Brown’s home in Brighton before co-producer Rob Flynn helped her add shifting, impressionistic swathes of colour, from the ominous chords that open ‘Light’ to the vocal eddies that close ‘Dark’. Brown wrote 8 of the 10 songs in a 3-week spell after a period of “strange dreams”. She recalls: “Dreams in black and white. I found myself in a dreamland and discovered it was being destroyed. I chose Vanishing Lands as an album title because it sounded suitably desolate, and lent the songs a feeling of cohesion.”

The themes of the two oldest tracks suit the ‘ruined world’ scenario. ‘Icaria’ is named after a utopian society established in the 1840s by a French socialist which only survived for 50 years. ‘Gold’ refers to America’s gold rush bonanza of the same era, when people searched for a better life, but instead created and faced catastrophe.

Born to a Thai mother and Scottish father, Brown was raised in Singapore from the age of five to eighteen, when she returned to the UK, making her home in Brighton. Learning guitar and subsequently Garageband software to construct broader sounds and styles of songwriting, she absorbed influences such as Sufjan Stevens, Scott Walker, David Lynch, Clint Mansell and Brian Eno: brooding, immersive, filmic universes through which Brown could escape her shy nature. But she has since stepped out, both as a commanding solo performer and one of the singers and musicians in the touring version of Lost Horizons, the collective co-founded by Simon Raymonde, Bella Union’s label boss.

Brown also cites key literary and visual influences. Film director Ingmar Bergman’s B&W masterpiece The Seventh Seal and David Lynch’s B&W lithographs impacted on Vanishing Lands’ desolate aesthetic and album artwork. Less overt this time are Singapore and Brown’s “fragmented sense of identity, being mixed race,” that underpinned her debut album ‘Consume Me’. The name Dog In The Snow comes from Franz Kafka’s iconic and prescient novel The Trial: “It seemed to represent finding liberation in an oppressed situation,” she explains. “I was trying to think of something with limitless creative space that doesn’t feel hindered in any way.”

The plight of the individual battered by the political system is echoed by the hooded black figures that appear in the album imagery, including the video that Brown has made for the fragile album highlight ‘Roses’. Her inspiration was a photo of refugees at sea, their faces hidden, desperate to escape their ruined homeland. But would their destination, if reached, provide comfort or more ruin? “It doesn’t help when people aren’t welcoming,” Brown says. “That was my mother’s experience when she arrived from Thailand.”

The album’s core theme also covers environmental ruination. ‘Fall Empire’ opens and closes with a warning: “If we did dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster”, which Brown heard on the groundbreaking 1982 documentary Koyaanisqatsi. Given the path that humanity is currently taking, no wonder Brown’s dreams seem to prophesise the end of times.

Still, she feels Vanishing Lands’ finale ‘Dark’ is “the most optimistic song on the album. Like I’m waking up from this dreamland and finding freedom rather than it being a negative feeling. Because things do change. We have to hope things will get better.” 

Jonathan Wilson debuts two new tracks

Ahead of a solo UK tour this Autumn, renowned artist/producer Jonathan Wilson has shared his first new music since last year’s critically acclaimed opus Rare Birds. Today he unveils the double–A–side single of “So Alive” and “Skinny Legs”. Of lead track “So Alive” Wilson says: “So Alive is a rumination on a love that arrived perfectly in tune and on time, a reunion really, as the song says that is both familiar and ‘from the unreal’. I sing that there are angels still among us and I believe that wholeheartedly…. It was one of the first things we cut with Mark O’ Connor, Dennis Crouch, and the rest of the band (Drew Erickson, Kenny Vaughn, Pat Sansone and Jon Radford). We cut it all live at Cowboy Jack Clement’s Sound Emporium Studio in Nashville. Nothing is overdubbed on the track.”

Jonathan Wilson spent most of 2018 on the road, away from home supporting Rare Birds as well as performing in Roger Waters’ Us + Them band as singer/guitarist. The homesickness he felt from being away so long was not for his home and studio in Los Angeles, but a deeper feeling. He missed the South. He missed home. Jonathan was born and raised in North Carolina. When Jonathan finally did return to LA, it was to pack up his LA home and studio. With nowhere to work in LA and over 20 songs, he flew to Nashville to make a record that would help Wilson recapture his innate love of American music.  The music he would play with his dad and his dad’s friends as a kid growing up in the South surrounded by bluegrass, country, and more. He recruited his favourite and some of the most legendary session players to join him including Mark O’Connor,  Dennis Crouch, Kenny Vaughn, Jim Hoke, Russ Pahl, Pat Sansone and Jon Radford, and recorded everything live. The as–yet–untitled album is slated for release some time in Spring 2020.

Catch Jonathan Wilson on tour this year. Dates found HERE.