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.”