Alisha Sufit

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Alisha Sufit made some little-known recordings in the early 1970s as a guitarist and singer/songwriter with Magic Carpet (who did one rare album) and as a soloist (doing an album of material that wasn't…
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Alisha Sufit made some little-known recordings in the early 1970s as a guitarist and singer/songwriter with Magic Carpet (who did one rare album) and as a soloist (doing an album of material that wasn't issued until the '90s), using open guitar tunings and vocalizing in a manner extremely reminiscent of Joni Mitchell. She re-emerged on the recording scene in the '90s with a solo album that had a jazzier bent than her previous work, and a CD by a modified version of the original Magic Carpet lineup, now billed as Magic Carpet II.

Sufit had been busking around London in clubs, markets (like the famous Portobello Road market), and the underground train stations with her guitar and dulcimer before hooking up with Magic Carpet in the early '70s. The three other musicians in Magic Carpet -- sitarist Clem Alford, guitarist Jim Moyes, and tabla player Keshav Sathe -- were offered the chance to do an album on Mushroom Records, under the condition that they get a singer. Sufit was recruited by Moyes, who had met her at the Chelsea School of Art. The resulting self-titled album, Magic Carpet, was an unusual blend of Indian ragas with Sufit's relatively straightforward songs, which aside from Joni Mitchell, also drew from some British folk and world music influences. Issued in an edition of only one thousand, the album was a hard-to-come-by rarity until its reissue on CD in the '90s. Magic Carpet played some live gigs as well, but lasted for less than a year before disbanding.

Sufit was invited to make some recordings at R.G. Jones Studio by Nick Sykes in August 1974, after he heard her singing at Portobello Market. Sufit did not feel that the recordings were suitable for release at the time, but they were dusted off and issued on the Love and the Maiden CD in 1994. Although her performance and material were quite similar to what she played in Magic Carpet, it was laid down on solo acoustic guitar, and thus sounded much closer to singer/songwriter music, bringing out her similarities to Joni Mitchell even more.

Sufit continued to play music and work as an artist throughout the '80s. Her increasing interest in jazz is evident on her 1993 solo album Alisha Through the Looking-Glass, a departure from both the Magic Carpet and her solo work in its expanded arrangements. These back her singing, guitar, and dulcimer with double bass, mandolin, fiddle, tenor sax, accordion, congas, and percussion, and while her singing retains its light, folky feel, the songs are far jazzier in structure. On the 1996 Magic Carpet II record, Once Moor, a reunion of sorts although only one other member of the original Magic Carpet (Clem Alford) was present, Sufit largely returned to the singer/songwriter/raga blend heard on the Magic Carpet's early-'70s LP.