The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

Ra­dio In­ter­na­tional Ke­faya Ra­dio In­ter­na­tional Records Sufi Spirit Roc­qawali River­boat/Planet Nei­ther the cre­ation of a global vil­lage con­cept in which mu­si­cal boundaries don’t ex­ist nor the adop­tion of a fic­ti­tious ra­dio sta­tion as leit­mo­tiv are new, but with co-ops such as Eng­land’s The Imag­ined Vil­lage and Spain’s Ra­dio Tar­ifa in dry dock or dis­banded there’s scope for a new project to emerge. A cos­mopoli­tan Lon­don-based col­lec­tive has the po­ten­tial to plug the gap with its self-tagged “guerilla jazz”. Ke­faya’s po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated con­structs on Ra­dio In­ter­na­tional may be punc­tu­ated by crack­ling ra­dio in­ter­ludes — mostly sam­ples of an ag­it­prop na­ture en­com­pass­ing in­ter­na­tion­al­ism and im­mi­gra­tion is­sues — but its de­but al­bum is no cut-and-paste au­ral pot­pourri or dour di­a­tribe. Recorded with singers and in­stru­men­tal­ists across India, the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries, Spain, Italy and Britain, the combo’s shapeshift­ing mu­sic cap­ti­vates the ear in ar­rest­ing ar­range­ments, un­til a com­bi­na­tion of elec­tron­ica, doof and gra­tu­itous dron­ing dead­ens the senses in tailend tracks. Fla­menco gui­tar false­tas al­ter­nate with ethio-jazz sax­o­phone fig­ures in a stim­u­lat­ing open­ing cut ( Indig­na­dos) that pays trib­ute to the Span­ish 15-M protest move­ment. Reg­gae dub and brass form the back­drop for a fe­male Span­ish singer in New Routes as a pre­lude to Protesta Fla­menca, a homage to the fla­menco artists who held per­for­mance protests in­side Span­ish banks fol­low­ing the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

They may su­per­fi­cially seem un­likely com­pan­ions, but the spir­i­tu­al­ity of the an­cient Sufi de­vo­tional mu­sic known as qawali and the grunge of mod­ern hard rock blend well. Ven­er­ated Pak­istani singer Nus­rat Fateh Ali Khan sign­posted the way in col­lab­o­ra­tions with Cana­dian gui­tarist Michael Brook and Pearl Jam’s lead singer Ed­die Ved­der, and now, 20 years on, a son of one of the prime keep­ers of the qawali flame post-Nus­rat, Us­tad Sher Ali, is tread­ing a sim­i­lar path with four Dan­ish rock mu­si­cians on a de­but al­bum pro­duced by an­other Canuck. As­sisted by the ex­per­tise of Mark Howard, who has worked with U2, REM, Bob Dy­lan and Neil Young, Roc­qawali suc­ceeds in strik­ing a bal­ance be­tween seem­ingly in­com­pat­i­ble gen­res. Much credit be­longs to singer Ejaz Sher Ali. While un­able to match the nigh­su­per­nat­u­ral vo­cal range of Nus­rat, the pas­sion­ate young Pak­istani soars as he bares his soul, in Urdu and Pun­jabi, in the time-hon­oured im­pas­sioned im­pro­vi­sa­tional style of the Sufi tra­di­tion. Roc­qawali’s 21stcen­tury qawali vari­ant is a po­tent com­bi­na­tion of Eastern spir­i­tu­al­ity and West­ern rock power. Stephen Grabowski on mal­let-hit drums and In­dian per­cus­sion and To­mas Nes­borg on res­o­nant elec­tric bass lay a rock-solid foun­da­tion over which Dan­ish-Ira­nian and Dan­ish-Pak­istani elec­tric gui­tarists Tin So­heili and Jonas Stampe let rip with dis­torted riffs or weave in­tri­cate arpeg­gios.

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