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Kefaya: “Music Has Been Used For Centuries As a Form of Protest”

The UK-based music collective talk about their single ‘Nirbhaya’, the power of music as a political tool and their debut album ‘Radio International’

Riddhi Chakraborty Jan 28, 2016
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Giuliano Modarelli and Al MacSween of Kefaya. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

Founded by UK-based music producers Giuliano Modarelli and Al MacSween, Kefaya’s reputation as a global collective comes not only from their vast and ever-changing lineup with musicians from around the world, but also from the political nature of their music that transcends borders. With a name that means ”˜enough’ in Arabic, Kefaya have a belief to match — the power of music as a means for change. “We want to convey a message of solidarity with activists and social struggles around the world,” says Modarelli.

The band’s latest single “Nirbhaya” is a tribute to the Delhi rape victim Jyoti Singh as well as homage to the many massive social movements demanding justice that took place across the world after her death. Moderelli talks to ROLLING STONE India about the inspiration behind the track, joining hands with Kranti, a NGO which empowers girls from Mumbai’s red light districts, and their upcoming album Radio International.

Tell us more about your track, “Nirbhaya”.
The piece is loosely based on Raag Charukeshi, which is known for its contrasting moods of ”˜light and dark’ or ”˜day and night’. We felt this song was fitting for a dedication to Nirbhaya as it allowed for a sombre reflection of the tragic event, but also had a certain optimism in paying tribute to the inspiring social movements that followed Jyoti Singh’s death.   

Do you feel that the music community should be more vocal about violence against women and other social issues?
Many popular artists’ concepts of feminism can be quite contradictory and often miss an analysis that engages with social movements. We would love to see the musical community becoming more engaged with political issues in a serious way that also connects with grassroots movements. Music has been used for centuries as a form of protest and as a way for artists to voice political disillusionment. We have been inspired by musicians such as Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Fela Kuti, Victor Jara, Miriam Makeba, John Coltrane, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley and the countless other who used their art as a weapon against social injustice and this is something we would like to see more.

How did your association with the NGO Kranti come about?
Kranti was recommended to us by a few different friends in India and we were intrigued by the work they did. During our recent tour we went to their base in Mumbai where we were able to meet members of Kranti, learn more about their work and perform an informal concert for them. We were very impressed with the organization and the amazing work they’re doing with very limited resources.

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Can you tell us a little more about your debut album Radio International?
The album’s concept is that of an ”˜international’ radio station, where radio samples weave together the journey across different musical styles. Radio International was completed after years of playing, traveling and meeting with artists from many different musical backgrounds. The album originally began at a recording studio in Leeds, UK, and over the following months we booked studios wherever we traveled to add the sounds of the different musicians we came across, including a recording session in Kolkata with virtuoso classical singer, Deborshee Batachatterjee, in Palestine with oud player, Ahmed Eriqat, and with many other amazing musicians.

What more can fans look forward to this year from Kefaya?
2016 is going to be an exciting year! Aside from launching the album, we will be touring in Europe over the summer and are planning an extended tour of India starting in November. We’re also collaborating on an album with renowned Afghan singer Elaha Soroor and are planning to make an album with legendary Italian jazz-folk saxophonist Daniele Sepe. There will also be more video releases coming soon, including a live version of “Nirbhaya”.

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