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Har Dam Sahara

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Har Dam Sahara
Har Dam Sahara


Rafiki Jazz create mesmeric music that resonates deep, bound through with the rich colour tones of the ancient musical heritages they explore. United in their mission to create a sound that crosses cultural boundaries, the music melds traditional vernaculars anew and expresses the power and beauty of difference: Rafiki Jazz is a band like no other. Formed in Sheffield, UK in 2006 Rafiki Jazz began as a meeting between regional roots and jazz musicians with migrant and refugee artists. Today founding member and bassist Tony 'Tk' Koni remains at the helm steering the band's collective artistic direction and co-producing. The album title Har Dam Sahara can be translated from Urdu as 'In life's every moment, there is always support'. A sage yet hopeful incantation reflected in many of the morals and messages of the songs. Opening track 'Sunno' meditates on the inevitability of death and features Senegalese musician Kadialy Kouyate on kora with the Sufi-inspired vocals of Sarah Yaseen. The lion's share of Har Dam Sahara was recorded at Yellow Arch Studios, Sheffield and Phipps Concert Hall at the University of Huddersfield. Rafiki Jazz's approach in the studio was to capture a live sound with little room for overdubs or heavily involved post-production. The result is a tender and natural sounding work full of inflection and intensity that can only be heard in live ensemble playing. Rafiki Jazz's creative process draws on the repertoire and technique of each band member alongside oral histories and folk songs from the archive. The track 'Tasbih' is band member Mina Salama's arrangement of three choral praise songs from the Coptic canon with Greek and Bohairic lyrics alongside an Urdu contemplation. The juxtaposition encapsulates perfectly Rafiki Jazz's wide-open cross-cultural approach. Lead singers Avital Raz and Sarah Yaseen particularly revel in drawing together Hebrew, Islamic and other Middle Eastern and Asian sources. 'You Are Light' is based on an 11th century Hebrew poem from the long cosmological masterpiece Keter Malchut. Rafiki Jazz's novel setting invokes a Hindi chandrakauns raag based around a tanpura drone. This theme of fearless synthesis is woven tight into the tapestry of each track on the album. 'Jhooli Laal Qalandar' is a reworking of landmark traditional Qawaali song 'Mustt Mustt' with lyrics based around the poetry of Bulleh Shah written in praise of Sufi mystic and visionary Hazrat Lal Shabaz Qalandar (Usman Marvandhi). Sarah Yaseen sings in Punjabi whilst guest artist Sarah Sayeed contributes English spoken word. 'Har Chand Sahara' calls Rafiki Jazz to classic Sufi ghazal with a rendition deriving from a hit by famed Pakistani playback singer Nayyara Noor and lyrics based on the poetry of the late Shohrat Bokhari. Also heavily represented throughout is the West African griot tradition with kora and occasional Wolof vocals from Kadialy Kouyate. 'Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba (Serigne Touba)' is a devotion to the Sufi marabout (spiritual leader) and pacifist resistance leader of the same name, whilst the track 'Saya' is an arrangement of a song by the legendary Gambian roots pioneers Ifang Bondi. Both songs also feature subtle touches of acoustic guitar from Cath Carr. Percussionist Guery Tibirica beats a Latin angle to the band's complex sound upon the berimbau (single string musical bow) with pandeiro and gumbe hand-drums. Hosho seed shakers from Zimbabwe also grace his hands. Listen out for sparkles of steelpans, tabla, derbuka, violin and oriental percussion hidden elsewhere throughout. Rafiki Jazz distil the meaning of their name in two-part translation: Rafiki for 'friends' and jazz for 'freedom'. Their indefinable, many-sided music is testament to their shared respect for those two key values. Har Dam Sahara is a love-letter to complexity, an embracing of this intricate world within which we live, and a beautiful one at that.


  1. Name
  2. Sunno
  3. Saya
  4. Tasbih
  5. You Are Light
  6. Har Chand Sahara
  7. Jhooli Laal Qalandar
  8. Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba (Serigne Touba)
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