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The Shadow Majlis - The Departure (Ali Jafri)

5 April 2024

Given the musical prowess and reputation of the players Ali Jafri has gathered around him for this debut album of his The Shadow Majlis project, it would be remarkable if something incredible hadn’t been created. Not only the great and good of the post-punk heyday but musicians versed in Eastern musical traditions too and thus an array of instruments and sounds as worlds apart as electric guitars and Tuvan throat singing, cellos and synthesizers.

The result is nothing less than a new sonic world woven from these attractive opposites, a blend of the timeless and the cutting edge, the ambient and the energetic. But it is a world that is neither occident nor orient, neither fantasy nor quite a reality, a blend of then and now, of geographies and cultures real and imagined, a liminal space between worlds, sonic and otherwise.

Perhaps the most poignant moment comes with “Deer In the Headlight”, an emploring and emotive sweep of eastern grooves and gothic energies, a dark dance-infused piece but also a track born of tragedy, a personal celebration of a lost child’s life. And throughout, the music is a neo-global masterpiece “The Way Home” drifts between the hazy ambient sounds of the sub-continent and more chilled and ethereal Celtic keening vocal traditions, “Mazdur” is dark, pulsating and mysterious and “Beshno Az Ney” floats otherworldly, hymnal and heartfelt.

People, like me, journalists that is, are all too ready to shout about a genuinely new sound being made and wax lyrical about true sonic breakthrough. Well, at the risk of you rolling your eyes and saying, “Not this old hyperbole again,” I would say that the alternative music landscape is not the same place after this album joined it. It may be a step too far to say that for the discerning music fan, the world can be divided into the years marked with the suffix BTD and those marked ATD, before and after The Departure! But then again, maybe not.

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