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Dutch flutist-composer Mark Alban Lotz wanted his new album Freshta would bear witness to a pressing social issue. He dedicated the song cycle of Freshta to the plight of the women of Afghanistan and in memory of Freshta Kohistani, a women’s rights activist and democracy advocate, who was murdered in 2020 near her home northeast of Kabul when she was 29 years old. Lotz is not an activist but says, «In times of war, populism and social unrest, as an artist, I want to address socially relevant issues».

Lotz assembled a new ensemble for Freshta featuring Swiss clarinetist Claudio Puntin, German cellist Jörg Brinkmann and drummer Dirk-Peter Kölsch, and Ditch pianist Jeroen van Vliet, that realized Lotz’s sonic vision of «modern jazz from the perspective of a European world citizen» faithfully. The album was recorded at Power Sound Studio in Amsterdam in May 2022.

All the pieces refer to women activists, mostly from the regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, as well as Africa, and evoke their inspiring spirits and their complex stories with captivating emotional power, beauty and elegance. The ensemble evokes the character of the controversial, former MP Malalai Joya who has been called «the bravest woman in Afghanistan», it alternates between four and five quarters. «Mahbouba», after journalist Mahbouba Seraj who heads the Afghan Women’s Skills Development Centre under the Taliban regime, is structured like a dramatic three-part, mini-suite but its abrupt closure reflects the isolation of women in Afghanistan.

The melodic «Malala» is dedicated to Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani child rights activist who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. «Durga’s Lalit», dedicated to Durga Gawda, an artist, activist, gender fluid, and non-binary, uses the Indian scale of the devotional and serene Raga Lalit, performed at dawn, but adds a swinging vibe to it. The meditative and touching «Wangari» is dedicated to Wangari Muta Maathai from Kenya, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.

Eyal Hareuveni

Claudio Puntin (clarinets), Jörg Brinkmann (cello, effects), Jeroen van Vliet (piano, effects), Dirk-Peter Kölsch (drums), Mark Alban Lotz (flutes, effects)