Kefaya + Elaha Soroor
“Afghan singer Elaha Soroor and eclectic London-based ensemble Kefaya have joined forces for a mighty and mesmerising new album, Songs Of Our Mothers; a fresh, vibrant and beautiful take on Afghan folk music filtered through myriad forms, from spiritual jazz and dub to Indian classical music and electronica.
The album is a collection of folk songs traditionally performed by Afghan women. 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, celebrating femininity, sensuality and the spirit of resistance.
Born into a family of Afghan-Hazara refugees, 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 award-winning musicians and producers Al MacSween and Giuliano Modarelli, who originally formed Kefaya in the UK city of Leeds with renowned drummer Joost Hendrickx before migrating to London. Driven by a shared desire to use music as a tool for political dialogue and action, they began to develop a fresh new sound and forged the themes, narrative and title of Songs Of Our Mothers.
The album draws on Elaha’s personal experience as a refugee and her effort to present an alternative view of her homeland: “In the eyes of the world,” she says, ”Afghan identity is terrorism, war and the Taliban and uneducated domesticated women who need help. I have tried to show other assocations with Afghanistan, such as the beauty of my mother language Farsi and the diversity of our music.”
Songs Of Our Mothers is a bold protest against the gender inequality, sexism and misogyny that exists on a global scale. Elaha is a spearhead for, as she puts it, “those women around the world whose image has been erased, and whose voice has been forbidden.”
The bulk of the album was arranged and recorded in Oxford in just a few days by Giuliano (guitar), Al (keyboards/synths) and Joost (drums). The recorded material was then further produced by Giuliano and Al with contributions from amazing guest musicians, many of whom are renowned artists in their own rights (in alphabetical order): Manos Achalinotopolous (clarinet), Yazz Ahmed (flugelhorn), Cormac Byrne (percussion), Grant Hunt (drums), Sarathy Korwar (tabla/dolak), Sardor Mirzakhojaev (dambura), Mohsen Namjoo (vocals), Tamar Osborn (baritone sax), Gurdain Singh Rayatt (tabla), Jhotsna Srikanth (violin), Camilo Tirado (live electronics) and Sam Vickary (double bass), not forgetting MOBO and Mercury-nominated producer Sonny Johns, who mixed the album.
The international line-up, spaning homelands such as Iran, Greece, India, Italy, UK and Ireland, reflects the album’s global perspective, the dynamic range of cutting-edge musicianship, and Kefaya’s collaborative way of working, drawing on multiple sounds and outlooks to present a united front of spirited musical and political action.”