Listen the Goth, Folk, and Alternative Rock of All-Star Ensemble The Shadow Majlis’ Debut Album “The Departure”

The Shadow Majlis is one of those projects that stands as a powerful example of how personal turmoil can ignite intense artistic creativity. Ali Jafri, a Toronto-based multi-instrumentalist, pours his deepest personal losses into this project, grappling with the devastating death of his seven-year-old son Oisín from brain cancer in September 2022, the dissolution of a significant relationship, and a year of housing instability.

The Shadow Majlis, pronounced “mahj-lis,” showcases Jafri’s wide-ranging musical abilities, featuring collaborations with bassist David J, known from Bauhaus and Love & Rockets, and drummer Rakesh Tewari, recognized for his contributions to Jaffa Road and The Special Interest Group. Beyond this project, Jafri has a rich musical history, including performing with David J’s live band, playing rock-sitar for Pigface, and leading his own projects like ARIEL, The Gotham City Drugstore, and Saintfield, not to mention his solo endeavors. This breadth of experience infuses The Shadow Majlis with a depth and complexity that resonate deeply amid the echoes of Jafri’s personal trials.

The heartwrenching lyrics for The Deer oscillate between the simplicity of a bedtime routine and the poignant recognition of an impending farewell. They capture a narrative of unexpected loss, fear, and the fragile nature of moments we often take for granted. A profound sense of helplessness emerges as the speaker wishes for more time and the ability to alleviate sorrow, ultimately guiding the listener towards acceptance and the finality of departure.

“The “Deer” in ‘Deer in the Headlights’ is Oisín as Oisín means “little deer” and is taken from Irish folklore,” says Jafri. “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.

“It’s apropos that his name means “little deer” because he was a graceful child,” Jafri remembers. “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 seven – 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.”

The video for the song is a stunning treat, offering a deep dive into the innermost layers of the psyche in a shamanic-like exploration of overlaid visuals. It’s a striking, emotionally charged experience that connects viewers with a profound sense of spirituality.

The lyrics of Mazdur envelop us in an eerie atmosphere of longing and loss, as they search for a loved one across the landscapes of dreams and elusive moments. The pervasive themes of darkness and a catatonic state amplify the depth of their yearning and the struggle with words left unspoken. The contrast between hushed whispers and resounding screams underscores a profound internal conflict and desperation. This repeated interplay between dreams and reality accentuates the delicate balance between holding onto hope and confronting the inevitability of loss.

The accompanying visualizer, weaving through a multitude of images featuring animals superimposed over a performance video and interspersed with filmed memories of Jafri’s son, captures the universal bond shared among all creatures on this planet, highlighting our collective endurance in the face of loss. It serves as a contemporary echo of Victorian mourning practices, navigating the essence of spirit and adjusting to a transformed existence.

The Shadow Majlis crafts an eclectic sound that marries Eastern musical traditions with the raw energy of post-punk, creating a groundbreaking, alternative neo-global style. Their latest album is a fusion of alternative and world music, enriched with complex rhythms and an array of global instruments. Spanning recordings from Toronto to LA, Portland to Istanbul, and beyond to Kyiv and Iceland, the album speaks in many tongues, incorporating Urdu, Farsi, Arabic, Icelandic, and Ukrainian alongside English.

This expansive project features a notable roster of international talent, including Ukrainian vocalist Olena Tsybulska from DakhaBrakha, renowned guitarist Mark Gemini Thwaite—who has played with The Mission and Peter Murphy—and cellist Anne Bourne, known for her work with Loreena McKennitt. The album also showcases Tuvan throat singer Soriah, tabla virtuoso Ravi Naimpally, sarangi master Pankaj Mishra, ney expert Selmanpak Ayduz, kemanche artist Kerem Koktas, and backing vocals by Sasha Singer-Wilson,

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!”

Moving from devastation through the creation of this album has been medicine for the soul, resulting in an alternative reality where we can all find solace and relief in music.

Produced and mixed by the three-time Grammy Award winner David Bottrill—who has worked with icons like Peter Gabriel, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Tool, and Muse—this album showcases his masterful touch. Bottrill’s previous collaborations with heavyweight artists and bands like Mastodon, Smashing Pumpkins, and at Real World Studios, reflect his deep experience and skill. The engineering by Darren McGill and mastering by Noah Mintz further elevate the project.

The Departure is out now. This album’s creation was made possible through funding received from FACTOR.

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Alice Teeple

Alice Teeple is a photographer, multidisciplinary artist, and writer. She is not in Tin Machine.

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