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.