Refugees For Refugees ‘Amina’ CD (Muziekpublique) 4/5

Ahead of the launch of their European tour this month, taking in Belgium, Hungary, Portugal, France and Austria, Refugees For Refugees deliver their second album, ‘Amina’, through a collaboration of musicians from Syria (Fakher Madallal, Tareq Alsayed Yahya and Tammam Al-Ramadan), Tibet (Kelsang Hula and Aren Dolma), Pakistan (Asad Qizilbash), Iraq (Souhad Najem), Afghanistan (Mohammad Aman Yusufi) and Belgium (Simon Leleux and Tristan Driessens [the latter can be found teaming up with Robbe Kieckens for a duo recording earlier this year]). With the Transglobal World Music Chart, who voted their June 2016 ‘Amerli’ Best CD, now placing the new album at the number one slot giving some indication to the respect given by the global ears community. Of the diverse contributors, BBC Radio 1 listeners will have embraced Kelsang Hula and Aren Dolma in a ‘live session’ back in 2016 and WOMAD festival goers will have witnessed the sarod playing of Asad Qizilbash, but for many, the UK will be virgin territory for this multi-talented consortium.

Traditional songs bridging the ten singers and instrumentalists + guests, build spine-tingling emotions over the 15 pieces of music spanning some 76min across the album with, for me, the striking sound of Tammam Al-Ramadan’s execution of the ney (end-blown flute) drawing in the mystical eastern heritage ticking all my boxes with his remarkable tone – very much a highpoint here. Asad Qizilbash expressiveness on the sarod is wonderful indeed, having been schooled by the very Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, and on learning he fled the Taliban in 2011 after a successful residence in Islamabad brings a completely different perspective on the ‘how’ this new album materialised, with many of the band “forced to flee the disastrous situation in their home countries, uprooting themselves and abandoning their contacts, taking only their musical talents and instruments with them.”

There is some familiarity, the odd flashback to a Bollywood movie, or background music at the local Turkish barber shop. The rhythms are the foundation of many regions across the East and one never tires of the creativity in the music. And although the vocabulary is unrecognisable to these ears, it offers additional percussive sound to give further depth which can only embellish, rather than distract, the whole. A warm, carefully prepared album that elevates all involved to the unity we should all crave, as we often remind ourselves, music has no boundaries. The potential then for the group is huge. Festivals would surely embrace this multi-layered music and a bright future must be ahead, providing the UK’s current political climate doesn’t build the unnecessary barrier many fear with restrictions on travel etc. for their, hopeful am I, future appearance to these shores. A diverse fusion of musical heritage brought together by musicians at the top of their game for what can only be described as a joyful noise.

Steve Williams