Kala Sangam Art Centre 28th September

Rafiki Jazz offer a powerful response to the growing interest in unifying traditional instruments and cultural sounds with modern instruments and beats.

Last year in August, we were at Lyth Art Centre, preparing and recording the album. Last Saturday on the 28th September we were in Bradford, at Kala Sangam Art Centre and this Friday on the 11th October we will be at the Crossing Digbeth in Birmingham, the event is hosted by the City of Sanctuary Birmingham.  

11th October Rafiki Jazz will be at the Crossing Digbeth in Birmingham

The tour is for the new album, Saraba Sufiyana. It means Mystic Utopia.

There is no mystery but only diligent hard work, talent, and patience in the making of the album. That was what we heard in Kala Sangam, the venue which is a reflection of multicultural  Bradford, offered a warm embrace, 120 full capacity audience, strong large projector and crisp sound quality.

The looped animation from award-winning Islamic pattern designer Zarah Hussain anchored our imagination.

If we go couple hours back in time.

We arrived half an hour earlier than expected. When the band was moving their equipment to the stage.

Band members loading their instruments
Rafiki Jazz in Kala Sangam before the gig, loading their instruments

Moji Kareem, (our host for the Q&A session, a multi awards winning director, founder & CEO of Utopia Theatre based in Sheffield’s Crucible) and Sarah Yaseen, were discussing which earrings should Sarah put on with her new costume for tonight’s show. Details…

The green gem-stone or sparkling white-diamond like? 

We decide on the green gem-stone one.

Sarah Yaseen

When the band start playing in that rarity of harmony of contrasting soundscape, we heard a little about our lives; it was not just a piece of music that was played, but the emotions delivered in that perfect pitch.

With that many different culture, background, instruments; what we might have expected was lopsided and chaos, instead; with its peaks and lulls, its light and shades, its gentle ancient melodies and rousing rhythms perfectly balanced, alternately stimulating and soothing, it was a sensory journey that pleased our souls and our minds.

An hour and 15 minutes later, we were there and back. Saraba Sufiyana; Mystic Utopia: Sufi’s wine; a farewell and a welcome; an invitation to peace and freedom; a game-changer as Ifang Bondi’s Saraba once was.

I am a visual artist more than anything. Now, I hope you will stay with me when I attempt to describe the feelings the music evoked in me.

Avital Raz on Tanpura

With Avital’s memories of her grandmother singing around their dinner table (Eshet Chayil), I shifted in and out of my memories, then to be liberated by Vijay mastering the lacing of emotions his fingers brushing his violin’s strings, the song Azadi vacuumed me in. Kashmir, liberation, freedom… 

Sounds of the violin transported me to a place and moment where hundreds of Monarch butterflies landing on my skin, later hearing the gentle air ripples travelling through tip of their wings.

Vijay Venkat on Bansuri Flute

How can a band with 9 seated members not moving around on the stage be that interesting to watch?

Rafiki Jazz delivered the emotions, transcended the space.

After the gig, there was a 30 min Q&A session which gave insight on how the band functions.

Here are snippets:

John Ball on Tabla, Guery Tibirica on Berimbau

All Rafiki Jazz members have been trained in one kind of improvisation technique. To build the structure of the song, they improvise. In the next 6-8 hours from the start, this structured improvisation is recorded. Robin the sound engineer knows its heartbeat so well.


Tony encouraged them to dig deep into their roots and bring up what they found to each other. “The found” became different when shared”.

“You have to put all your passion, you have to make sure all the sound is perfect for your environment.” Guery described the way he plays his Berimbau. 

“It is the atmosphere of trust,” John said, “ we created over the years that makes this music so special.”

With Sarah’s words; “You have an idea, then everybody comes in. You don’t know what will come out. It is like magic.”

“We all long for something”;  Avital Raz.

Follow Rafiki Jazz social accounts for future events

Thanks to Studio Balköse, Anarchy Cinema and Karol Wysszynski DayNightPhotography for the images and the videos from the night.

Ayse Balkose