Unique jazz collective performing at Rich Mix in celebration of Refugee Week

PUBLISHED: 07:00 23 June 2017

Members of musical collective Rafiki Jazz in action. The group will perform at Rich Mix today (Friday) as part of Refugee Week celebrations. Picture: Ay_egul Balkose

Members of musical collective Rafiki Jazz in action. The group will perform at Rich Mix today (Friday) as part of Refugee Week celebrations. Picture: Ay_egul Balkose

AY^EGÜL BALKÖSE, studio balko

Contemporary sounds and arrangements inspired by ancient traditions unite at a show celebrating the globe’s diversity.

Unique collective Rafiki Jazz are heading down to Rich Mix today (Friday), to inspire music lovers with pieces exploring Pakistan and Senegal’s mystic Sufi traditions and ancient Middle Eastern Coptic and Hebrew roots.

The vibrant performance, launching the group’s new CD Har Dam Sahara, is in celebration of Refugee Week 2017, which is highlighting the experiences of refugees, and their important contributions to our society, through the theme ‘shared future’.

The collective will treat the audience to an hour of contemporary world music, before a panel discussion and Q&A kicks off.

This will bring together the musicians, and speakers from the Arts & Refugees movement and the world music scene, who will talk about migration, heritage, faith and languages in contemporary British music.

Sashwati Mira Sengupta, from charity Counterpoints Arts, which works with migrants and refugees, has praised the group.

She said: “[They are] the most diverse band in the UK, a host of musicians spanning four continents, with migrant and refugee artists at its heart, and immense sincerity and compassion coursing through their songs.”

Rafiki Jazz premiered some of the songs they are due to perform at Elbow frontman Guy Garvey’s Meltdown festival in 2016, while also appearing at the Barbican Centre’s Transcender Festival the same year.

Other prior performances include shows at the London Music Festival, Refugee Week’s Celebrating Sanctuary Festival and even Tasmania’s 10 Days on the Island Festival.

Rafiki Jazz originated in Sheffield in 2006 and attribute their style to “classic post-colonial African dance bands” which mixed their sounds with the latest jazz from across the Atlantic.

The collective record all their album tracks live, create arrangements together and use folk instruments from across the globe to complete their unique sound, from the African kora to the Caribbean steelpan and Brazilian berimbau.

Themes touched upon in the music include protest, liberation, universal rights, spirituality, ritual and devotion.

Musicians from the collective taking to the stage at Rich Mix include Sarah Yaseen on Urdu and Punjabi vocals and percussion, Avital Raz on Hebrew vocals and tanpura, Cath Carr on guitar and steelpans, and Johnny Ball on tabla and derbuka.

The performance will take place at 8pm on Friday, June 23, at the main space in Rich Mix, Bethnal Green Road, Bethnal Green.

Tickets are £5. Call 020 7613 7498 or visit


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