James Poulter: Mental health therapy through world music gig

James Poulter gives the lowdown on one of Sheffield's latest musical treats - Rafiki Jazz at Yellow Arches - and talks about how the music moved him.

Rafiki Jazz

Rafiki Jazz are a world music phenomenon. Based in Sheffield, they hail from all corners of the globe. The two lead singers are from contrasting cultures and musical traditions, yet harmonise together perfectly. Sarah Yaseen is from the mystic Sufi lineage, performing Islamic qawwali music, whereas Avital Ran is from Jerusalem and chants ancient Hebrew songs. Add to this Senegalese kora (West African harp) expert Kadialy Kouyate, Egyptian oud (origin of the modern guitar) maestro Mina Salama, Indian tabla, Brazilian percussion and much much more

Whether it was traditional qawwali epics, sumptuous Sufi melodies, ancient Hebrew chants or much-cherished Senegalese arrangements, nearly all of the music was devotional, that is expressing a love for God or a spiritual tradition, rather than love of the mundane. This was just what I needed! Suffering from bipolar I have been very low in mood, and needed some inspirational music to make my spirit soar. At the same time, in the past music has been a big trigger for my psychosis, and I have been wary of getting back into the music scene.

But Rafiki Jazz were just perfect, keeping me in a trance-like state focused on the higher things in life. And it is so inspiring to see musicians from different cultures, countries and traditions blend together so well. After the gig we got to talk to lead singer “Sarah the Sufi”. It is amazing – when singing she is so pure and other-worldly, yet in conversation so natural and down-to-earth. Yellow Arches is a superb venue, cosy and intimate and gently lit. About 80 people formed the rapturous crowd. All in all, a great evening!

Rafiki Jazz – I n s a a n i y a t:

Photo courtesy of Ali Heath Cook

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