Exclusive: London based band Kefaya bring a taste of world music to Sheffield

With their music descriptions ranging from “internationalist music” and “guerrilla jazz” to “contemporary world-fusion” and “global protest music” – Kefaya are a band that seeks to find common ground between folk traditions and the cutting edge sound of the 21st century.

Their debut album ‘Radio International’, released on the 14th of October, was recorded during travels and collaborations with musicians across India, Palestine, Spain, Italy & the UK.

We caught up with Giuliano Modavelli and Al MacSween of the band just before their performance at the Global Soundtracks Fusion on Tuesday at Firth Hall.

What does Kefaya mean, and why that name?

It’s Arabic for ‘enough’ and it was a term used quite a lot during the democratic movement especially in the middle east during the Arab spring, which later came to be known as the Kefaya movement. It’s not a party specific politics but it does mean enough in a political (and social way) as in, ‘we have had enough and we now want change’ – it’s the equivalent of ‘ya basta’ in Spanish.

Would you say that your music has political undertones?

Definitely, yes. We are quite explicit about it – it’s not an undertone. If you listen to our album, you will realise that a lot of our songs are politically charged and motivated.

Could you tell us more about your album ‘Radio International’? The inspiration behind it and how the response has been so far?

So far, the response has been really good. We’ve had a few four star reviews from the Evening Standard, Song Lines, The Financial Times – we’ve got some really good responses from DJs as well. Marianne Hobbs of BBC Radio 6 Music Weekend Breakfast show loves it, Gilles Peterson loves it and they play our record every week; We are getting some nice radio play.

We first started recording this album in Leeds a while ago. We were all living in Leeds and involved in different music scenes, and we wrote music on what we were inspired by and over the years and the album developed further in our travels – some of it was recorded in India, some in Palestine.

At a certain point we realised that we had this incredibly eclectic album with all these different types of music. The idea of being a sort of International Radio station tied together all these different styles of music.

It is a way of showing our ideas about being international and going across borders, across ideas like nationalism and patriotism. The idea of it being a radio station also allowed us to add speech samples in between to emphasize on what we have to say politically.

You said you were politically explicit about your messages. What are those messages that you want to be sending out to the public?

The first message has to do with internationalism and the album is focused around the idea of immigration and it is in a sense, our attempt to make a critical statement about the situation around us that brings more and more division and separation.

Living in a city like Leeds, where we started this project, there are so many different types of communities. We saw that they bought their art and their tradition and it was quite refreshing for us to come across people like we did and to collaborate with them.

The album is a celebration of the place that we live in, which became so global. Yet we did not want to just make it look exotic and take on things in a superficial way – when we collaborate, we try to learn from the music.

As much as anything, it is also a dialogue on our reality. This is a world we live in. As musicians, we didn’t grow up in a certain tradition of playing music; our reality was learning from a plethero of different people, who play completely different sorts of music. Also by adopting styles of music that aren’t originally designed for your instruments.

What do you have planned for the rest of the year?

We’ve created our own record label, called Radio International Records, and we have another album set to be released this spring. We are also planning to do an album called Kefaya Presents and this artist will focus on one artist.

We will be performing at the Trance Festival in Bangladesh and then touring India around December.

The idea is to be very proactive while working in collaboration to produce as much music as we can under our own label.


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