The Shadow Majlis, 'The Departure'

The Arrival of The Shadow Majlis, Before The Departure

Ali Jafri of Ariel, Gotham City Drugstore, member of David J's band, and the occasional sitar player for Pigface released his debut album under his latest project name, The Shadow Majlis, a more personal endeavor as a result of unfortunate and traumatic circumstances that no one should go through. Let's see; the death of a son, quickly followed by a split up, a union broken as what I believe was a result of that loss, and then homelessness. Those have got to be at the top of the list of things that no one should have to go through all at once but, Ali Jafri did. 

We take our lives for granted, never attempting to capture our story. Perhaps it's more courageous to just live life without keeping records of it for another generation? We might do it to keep it in the family but at some point, they're left for the rest of us. So why not lean in? This is also something the artist must deal with through their filter and Jafri's filter is complicated. He's always told his story through music but rather than tell it in the abstract, fuck the filter, he's opening up to tell you everything! Part of that is that he originally planned to call this release The Arrival before Oisin, his adopted son's diagnosis proved dire. 


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Now, Let's Talk About The Shadow Majlis' The Departure


After hearing some of Ali Jafri's work as Ariel and his solo releases, you can see the blueprint for what The Shadow Majlis will become. The main drive behind this album, however, is his adopted son, Oisin. The opening track "The Way Home" is very emotional. A type of lullaby that features a snippet of Oisin's voice, which adds to that emotional impact. In fact, in the entire track, Ali is putting him to sleep and obviously, this is in sync with his passing. It's situations such as this that I fear too much of to have children of my own and yet, I can't help myself but get emotional listening to this song.

The rest of the album goes through this journey of world music, or what he refers to as neo-global, with flutes, sitars, throat singing, chanting, and various sounds of percussion that breathe life into this album. Jafri has made no secret of his vocal influence to be Peter Murphy, whom he would eventually befriend. Much of that influence can be heard in his Ariel band but he abandons all of that here. He comes through confident and strong with his vocal style which sounds very close to Jon Crosby in "Savage Castaway", but so much more with "Mazdur", you'd think you were listening to a track off a VAST album. Not an imitation but the the similarities keep me engaged with this album.

One of the things I do before listening to a new release is to determine the storyline according to song titles. Knowing beforehand of Jafri's journey to The Departure, "Deer In The Headlights" comes across, in the context of the other chapters, of him being so pressed by so many traumatic events at once that he froze. You're in stasis and not unlike a deer in the headlines, you're about to be hit.

In this moment of creative stagnation, you're waiting for the impact and the way this music is arranged for this moment is quite dramatic. A creative person always goes through this but the music you hear, is the complete opposite of that stagnation, but stagnation dramatized. This is also much more percussion-driven than the rest of the album. This is the core of the tribal energy that centers this release. Heh. I mean, album release, but this album is Jafri's ultimate release of uninhibited creativity.  






The dynamics of the music in this album always keep me guessing. Jafri knows how to adjust the changes in his vocal style, to each track. I can only go as far with what I know that there are differences in scales with music in other countries, especially when it comes to the sitar. If I had more time with this review, I could attempt a breakdown of what Eastern music structure to go into more detail with these tracks. I enjoy world music because of how It always reveals new ideas to me. Listening to The Departure, I'm getting Talvin Singh presents: Anokha – Soundz of the Asian Underground-vibes as if this were a various artists album. 

It's not that it's broken up to where there's no structure. I mentioned earlier how Jafri "abandons" the Peter Murphy vocals here but not entirely. "I Remember" still sounds a bit like Murphy but "Swallowed By The Sky" also sounds like Robert Smith to me. If anything, I notice the dynamics in these vocal styles which adds to the stylistic edge that Jafri maintains. 

The flow of the album appropriately evens out the story with a build-up of energy before the end with chants. The track based on Jalal al-Din Muḥammad Rumi's poem, "Beshno Az Ney" (We Come To Leave) connects me with the intro track where Jafri also says, "We come to leave". My interpretation is that this is the kind of philosophy that contributed to ending his relationship. I don't want to get too much in the weeds with something I don't know. I do know the struggle of the creative when they don't get the support they need to carry on and to restrain Ali Jafri's commitment to his expression would be catastrophic. We would never be able to witness the power of his expression.

Oh yeah. David J plays bass on this album too.  

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