06-04-2024 Music 217

The Shadow Majlis - Deer in the Headlights

The Shadow Majlis - Deer in the Headlights

Toronto-based artist The Shadow Majlis presents 'Deer in the Headlights' from the debut album 'The Departure', following the latest single 'Mazdur'. Moving from devastation through the creation of this album has been medicine for the soul, resulting in an alternative sonic reality where we can all find solace and relief.

The Shadow Majlis [pronounced "mahj-lis"] revolves around multi-instrumentalist Ali Jafri, whose multi-cultural artistic and musical vision was realized together with David J (Bauhaus, Love & Rockets) on bass and Rakesh Tewari (Jaffa Road, The Special Interest Group) on drums and percussion, with cover art by Stephen Seto (Splintercage).

Perhaps best known as a member of David J's live band or for playing rock-sitar with Pigface, Ali Jafri also leads projects ARIEL, The Gotham City Drugstore and Saintfield, in addition to his his solo work. Produced and mixed by three-time Grammy Award winning producer David Bottrill (Peter Gabriel, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Tool, David Sylvian, Mastodon, Smashing Pumpkins, Muse, Real World Studios), this album was engineered by Darren McGill and mastered by Noah Mintz.

The album features numerous guest performers, including vocalist Olena Tsybulska (DakhaBrakha), guitarist Mark Gemini Thwaite (The Mission, Peter Murphy, MGT, Tricky, Gary Numan), cellist Anne Bourne (Loreena McKennitt, Jane Siberry), Tuvan throat singer Soriah, Ravi Naimpally (Niyaz, Constantinople) on tabla, Pankaj Mishra on sarangi, Selmanpak Ayduz on ney, Kerem Koktas on kemanche, and Sasha Singer-Wilson on backing vocals.

The most poignant and powerful artistic output stems from tragedy, and The Shadow Majlis is no exception. Amid a deluge of personal upheaval, this album has been Jafri's means to address his grief over losing his seven-year-old son Oisín, who passed away in September 2022 after a nine-month battle with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (a highly aggressive form of brain cancer), the dissolution of his conjugal relationship, and a year-long state of temporary homelessness.

"The “Deer” in 'Deer in the Headlights' is Oisín as Oisín means “little deer” and is taken from Irish folklore. This song is special for me with its high energy percussion and features David J‘s bass line driving the rhythm section. It also features Soriah and his Tuvan throat singing, the meditative nature of the throat singing up against the franticness of the rest of the song, I think, is juxtaposed beautifully and speaks to the gracefulness that Oisín carried himself with amidst the difficulties he faced as a child dying from cancer,' says Ali Jafri.

"And it’s apropos that his name means “little deer” because he was a graceful child. He lived and died with grace. The song also speaks to his short life and sudden decline - his cancer battle only lasted nine months. He had a huge impact on everyone that knew him and the bravery he showed in his last days is nothing short of incredible. We had a brief yet profound time with him. He’ll always be frozen in time at the age of 7 - his short life, a moment of grace. We didn't know what hit us, and we certainly didn't see it coming til it was too late".

Showcasing genre-fluid excellence and raw emotional experience, The Shadow Majlis fuses elements of Eastern modes with post-punk. An alternative neo-global style that transcends borders, alternative music is merged with the rich, diverse instrumentation and rhythms of world music. Recorded in Toronto, LA, Portland, Istanbul, Kyiv and Iceland, this is truly an international affair, with languages such as Urdu, Farsi, Arabic, Icelandic and Ukrainian woven with English throughout this album.

Calling the album a powerful achievement, David J says, "I believe that there are certain tracks and moments that act as portals into another dimension - I'm not being fanciful here!"

'The Departure' album is out now, available everywhere digitally, including Spotify, Apple Music and Bandcamp. This album's creation was made possible through funding received from FACTOR.


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