Songs of Our Mothers (Bella Union)
Recorded in Oxford with international zeal, this excellent release brings together folk songs traditionally sung by Afghan women, played here by musicians on instruments including violin, flugelhorn and double bass as well as the dombra (long-necked lute). At the project's centre are Al MacSween and Giuliano Modarelli, aka the musician/producer duo at the core of the collective Kefaya, and singer Elaha Soroor, who found fame in Afghanistan in 2009 through a reality show, the first female Afghan-Hazara (Hazara people being much discriminated against) to perform on national TV.
Soroor's championing of women's rights in both statement and song was made at personal cost; several years after arriving in London as a refugee she found kindred spirits in MacSween and Modarelli, who enlisted a line-up that includes Sarathy Korwar on tabla and dolak, Yazz Ahmed on flugelhorn, Joost Hendrickx on drums and Camilo Tirado on live electronics. Sung in Farsi and passed down from mother to daughter, these ten songs tell stories of joy, pain, resilience and more. The defiant, dub-friendly ‘Charsi’ (Pothead) sees Soroor telling a man to calm down and appreciate her as his equal. ‘Jama Narenji’ is a fierce, coiled track imbued with nostalgia and longing sent skywards by careering horns and Soroor's emotive, tremulous voice. The beauty of her mother language, and the wide-ranging culture it encompasses, is palpable throughout. Jane Cornwell