An elegant global fusion based around a series of traditional Afghan folk songs, Songs of Our Mothers represents the inspired meeting of London-based collective Kefaya and Afghan singer Elaha Soroor. Kefaya, whose core duo consists of producers/players Giuliano Modarelli and Al MacSween, first appeared in 2016 with Radio International, a border-blurring panoply of sounds and styles that spanned flamenco, dub, Ethiopian, Italian, Indian, and more. With an Arabic name that translates to "enough" and wide-ranging multinational personnel, Kefaya specialize in forms of protest music. For her part, Soroor became a controversial figure in Afghanistan when, in 2009, she appeared on the Idol-style talent show Afghan Star, becoming the first Hazara woman to perform on national television. Her talent was immediately apparent, and while her activism was celebrated by some communities, she quickly became a target among more conservative factions and was eventually made to flee her home country. As creative partners, Soroor and Kefaya are a strong match whose politics and inclusive musical instincts dovetail on this compelling album. The material, brought in by Soroor, is made up of Afghan folk songs traditionally sung by women. Scaling down somewhat from their wildly eclectic debut, Kefaya nonetheless apply a similar, if more focused approach in filtering these songs through their progressive lens, bringing electronic, dub, jazz, rock, and Indian elements into the fold. Some, like hard-driving opener "Jama Narenji" and the vibrant "Charsi," bristle with percussive energy and heft, while others take a more understated tack. The forbidden love song "Gole Sadbarg," with its delicate interplay between Modarelli's classical guitar and Soroor's lilting voice, is a gorgeous standout, rich with sweetness and yearning. "Lalay Lalay," another beautiful track with a soothing multicultural feel, includes tasteful support vocals from Iranian singer Mohsen Namjoo while Indian violinist Jyotsna Srikanth swoons over a low drone of bowed bass and jazz drum rumbles. In the end, it's not the reggae-infused beats or shimmering electronics but these softer, more acoustic arrangements that seem to have a the most lasting effect. Still, the collaboration as a whole is a unique treat that shows the best attributes of each of its participants.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger