Kefaya – sounds of a new world

Lois C reviews a musical project that captures the energy and excitement of the latest wave of global resistance.

Kefaya live performance

For most readers of this review the word “kefaya” might conjure up images of a pre-Arab Spring Egypt still in the grips of Mubarak’s dictatorship. Kefaya, the Arabic word “enough”, became the rallying call for a grassroots movement that built upon the backbone of Egypt’s anti-war movement in 2003 – one of the biggest spontaneous uprisings in Egypt’s history that paved the way for the Revolution of 2011. It is from this inspiring history that the eclectic and international musicians of the Kefaya collective take their name.

I wasn’t sure what to expect turning up to see Kefaya. I had not heard their album and knew their music was overtly political. I was concerned that the politics could come across as contrived as is so often the case with bands committed to a political message. In fact, their high-energy performance journeyed across borders, effortlessly weaving in the spirit of political resistance. A broad musical collective, Kefaya is based around three core musicians: guitarist Giulliano Modarelli, pianist Al McSween and drummer Joost Hendricks.  Their introductory song gave a taste of the creative talent of the trio before an understated introduction to their self-described “manifesto” railing against cultural purity in favour of musical fusion, internationalism and a world where borders no longer limit our creative potential.

Kefaya Radio International The show buzzed with energy as the collective drove themselves through an eclectic set that demonstrated the exceptional technical talent of the performers without ever diminishing the energy of the music. Anyone attending future shows will be struck by the dexterity of Modarelli, whose Arabic-influenced Spanish guitar binds the collective together, bouncing back and forth off McSween’s keys. Kefaya’s skill is carrying their political message in the emotion conjured by their performance rather than wearing it in their lyrics. Songs dedicated to the Spanish indignados, against fortress Europe or inspired by the Tahrir protests evoke the imagery of these events without a word in English being spoken.

As good as their debut album Radio International, which won them Best Newcomer in the Songlines Awards, is, maybe it can’t capture the experience of seeing the live show. A particular highlight was the performance of ‘Symphony’ featuring Nicki Wells (taken from the album) and Hazara Afghan singer Elaha Soroor. Elaha, a contestant from the ‘Afghan Star’, a variation of ‘Pop Idol’, had faced persecution for her political views, which gave her reworking of Afghan classics added poignancy. It was announced that Kefaya’s second album, released in the autumn, will draw heavily from Afghan music and prominently feature her vocals.

The evening left me inspired and energised, and I would recommend that everyone books tickets to see Kefaya on their ongoing tour.

Kefaya’s next London gig is on 24 September at Nell’s Jazz and Blues bar.

(3 North End Crescent, London W14 8TG)

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