FolkWorld #75 07/2021
© Angie Lemon & Sophie Darling PR

Rafiki Jazz

Musical Diversity at the Forefront

Rafiki Jazz exemplify the moment where culture, faith, sound and spirit collide in their 5th studio album, NDUGGU (pronounced ‘un-doo-goo’) meaning ‘Dust’. Once again, Rafiki Jazz place musical diversity at the forefront of their music with eight new internationalist songs of enlightenment and change that cherish the human spirit, its joy and its fragility. The dust that is NDUGGU is both physical and symbolic. Rafiki Jazz focus on the changing climate with ever-increasing desertification of Northern Africa, while dust also acts as a symbol reflecting our ultimate destiny.

Rafiki Jazz

Artist Video Rafiki Jazz @ FROG

The message of the title track ‘Nduggu Bouy’ challenges what is happening in the Sahel region of Africa, between the Sahara to the north and Sudan to the south. Is anyone taking notice? As Rafiki Jazz reflect, “The global climate emergency is bringing acute desertification across the Sahel.” Rafiki Jazz reflect and ask why, “Too much dust… we wrap our heads and sit and wait… who failed to warn us?”

‘Nduggu Bouy’ is steeped in melodic charms and smooth vocals, encapsulating the collective sounds of the band, their experiences and transitions. The track also features the unmovable force in the fabric of Rafiki Jazz that is London-based hereditary griot: Kadialy Kouyate. Featuring his warm and soulful Fula singing and the stunning 21-string kora, Kouyate notably brings the traditional West African harp to meet traditional Southern Asian tabla drums and more...

Rafiki Jazz

Since 2006, the longevity of Rafiki Jazz has seen them touring the globe from Montreal to their hometown of Sheffield. However, 2020 saw the world of music uprooted and thrown into a new isolated online virtual realm. In keeping with their pledge to stay accessible Rafiki Jazz took on a whole new approach of recording their 5th album, using online collaborative ‘real time’ music sharing platforms. A perfect example of their collaborative methods is the Turkish ode to their band manager ‘Gesi Baglari’ in which all members of the band contributed the tracks compositions remotely from the comfort of their homes.

Equipped with funding from the Arts Council, each member of the group set up their own home digital recording workstations as well as being able to feature guest artists K.O.G. aka Kweku Sackey on the rich highlife track ‘Ngozi Ucheoma’ (Unlock your heart… life is a blessing) and guest percussionists Millie Chapanda and Amir Ezzat plus audio programmer engineer Robin Downe.

As well as this, old souls come together in a new role: long term violinist Vijay Venkat shocked the band by picking up the vocal mic on ‘Naalaikku Nalla Naal’ (Tomorrow is a good day). The album also features the comeback of a previously recorded track: this time produced as a more traditional and authentic take of the Kashmiri lullaby ‘Hukus Bukus’.

Whilst Rafiki Jazz has always exemplified multiculturalism with their “big band” aesthetics as an orchestra that features steel pans, tablas, berimbau, darbuka, kora, maqam vocals, bass, ouds and flutes, this pandemic lead album is a true intersection of individualism and collaboration. Altogether an eclectic and exciting album, triumphantly and successfully complete, circumventing the constraints of online remote working. This album may be Rafiki Jazz’s finest.

Rafiki Jazz, NDUGGU: DUST, Konimusic, 2021. Genres: Global, Fusion, Jazz, Roots. Languages: Tamil (India), Fula (Guinea), Urdu (Pakistan), Igbo/Pidgin (Nigeria/Ghana), Coptic Arabic (Egypt), Mandinka (Senegal), Kashmiri, Turkish.

Rafiki Jazz Musicians: Sarah Yaseen: vocals, conga, djembe. Catherine Ngozi Carr: vocals, guitar, steelpans. Mina Mikhail Salama: vocals, oud, saz, duduk, kawala, ney, glockenspiel, udu. Kadialy Kouyate: vocals, kora. Vijay Venkat: vocals, violin, viola, bansuri. Toni Koni: bass guitar, clave. John Ball: tabla, santoor. Guery Tibirica: berimbau, pandeiro, gumbe. Special Guest Musicians: Millie Chapanda: hosho, dunun, vocal call. K.O.G.: vocals, bongo, agogo, handclaps, djembe. Amir Ezzat: riqq, daf, darbuka. Robin Downe: programming, handclaps.

Photo Credits: (1ff) Rafiki Jazz (unknown/website).

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