[PREMIERE] ‘Charsi’ (Official Video) AND Exclusive interview: Five minutes with Kefaya & Elaha Soroor

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Afghan singer Elaha Soroor and award-winning electronic music/producer outfit Kefaya have come together release an enthralling album, Songs Of Our Mothers, to be released on the 27th of September. The album focusses on the trials of Afgan women as they struggle to both live in and flee their home country. At the forefront of the inspiration for this is Elaha Soroor, previously the star of a reality TV show who found herself one of the many women risking their lives to flee the country as she refused to be silenced on her views of woman’s rights. 

After meeting producers Kefaya, the decision to create a collaborative album representing the femininity, sensuality and the spirit of resistance within the women of Afganistan came quickly. Featured in the album are contributions from world-renowned musicians, including Mohsen Namjoo (voice), Manos Achalinotopolous (clarinet), Yazz Ahmed (flugelhorn) and many more. Creating a rare and driving sound, we see the amalgamation of Afgan folk music meeting spiritual jazz along with a nod to Indian classical, with a constant current of electronic music to hold it together. 

Below, you can see the premiere of the music video for ‘Charsi’, which represents the repression of women who chose to smoke weed, drink or party. The lead woman challenges this, inviting the featured man to join her as an equal rather than a judge or evaluator.  

Hi, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. How have your respective years been going so far? 

It’s our pleasure! Musically it’s been a really interesting few years for us and it feels we’re really starting to build momentum and interest in our work. It’s also great to be able to channel some of our recent political frustrations into our artwork and we really hope that this will be part of a larger radicalisation of artists and musicians. 

Your upcoming album, ‘Songs Of Our Mothers’ was largely influenced by ‘Elaha’s own experience of fleeing Afghanistan and the struggle faced by many other female artists’. What was the deciding point to make you want to create this album?

The first Kefaya album was highly eclectic, with almost every track featuring guest artists from multiple different genres. Whilst this functioned well as a kind of ‘manifesto’ for the band’s internationalist political and musical ethos, we felt we wanted to do something much more specific for our second album. After a chance meeting with Elaha, we started playing concerts organised by Afghan diaspora communities around Europe and became fascinated by the different styles of Afghan folk music Elaha was introducing us to. We immediately connected on our political views and a shared desire to use music as a tool for political dialogue and action and felt Elaha had important things to say, both as an outspoken feminist and as a refugee artist. When an engineer friend offered access to a great recording studio we jumped at the opportunity and decided to make this album with Elaha.

It is a deeply personal record. Is it more difficult to release material of this nature? Are you concerned with how your music is received?

In many ways, it is much easier to release material of this nature as it brings the artist an authentic emotional connection to the music they’re making. There are various sensitive themes on this album that are unlikely to be well-received by those who are politically conservative and right-wing, but this has never been a concern or in any way affected our artistic intentions. Our main concern is that our views could be misrepresented or misused.

What have been some of the emotional and tangible challenges you’ve faced during the making of this album?

The main challenges in making this album were largely the material problems faced by most artists such as how to fund the costs of making the album, never-ending admin, finding the time to work on the album and putting the team together we needed to release it. 

As artists, it becomes apparent that there is a huge difference between the art and the business. What has been your experience of this?

There is still a huge conflict between the needs of the creative artist and the business interests of the capitalist record industry, especially concerning the major labels. This has been detrimental to so many great artists over the years, and it’s worth pointing out that the record industry has been particularly exploitative of BAME, female and working-class musicians. A big frustration we and many other artists feel is the pressure to adapt to constructs of style and genre created by the record industry, despite the fact that in reality, art and creativity is a process that is fluid, abstract and difficult to define. Another struggle we’ve experienced is how to make original projects financially sustainable. We never went into music in order to make bags of money, but without the support of middle /upper-class parents, it can be incredibly difficult to find the time and resources needed to fully invest in an original project whilst simultaneously having to find ways to pay the rent at the end of the month.

Outside of music, where do you draw inspiration from?

Outside of music, we have been particularly inspired by numerous political figures, writers, philosophers, activists and artists of multiple disciplines who have been able to question, express, and transform the way we think about ourselves and our relationship to society, politics and culture, people such as Angela Davis, Edward Said, Arundhati Roy, Grayson Perry, Ken Loach, Frida Kahlo, bell hooks, John Berger, Karl Marx, Dawood Sarkhosh, Ahmad Shamlou and so many others. And of course we have been inspired by our amazing friends and family, and for this album, in particular, our mothers.

What is the one message of the album that you hope people will walk away with?

If there is one overall message to be taken from this album, it is that we wish to challenge false constructs. Whether they be constructs of gender, nationality, race, sexuality or musical genre, we want to encourage a deconstruction of social norms and conservative morals.

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