Zarafa header


I About ZarafaI







Cultural Touring


Media Kit



About Zarafa














Powerful, intoxicating dance music from Melbourne's masters of Gypsy and Eastern Fusion.

Zarafa is Melbourne's premier Balkans and Near Eastern ensemble: a versatile group of musicians and dancers who present a spectacular and eclectic show featuring both traditional and original repertoire. The ensemble draws on the complex rhythms and modes of Turkish, Macedonian, Croatian, Persian and Moroccan folk traditions, performing fiery acoustic dance tunes on authentic instruments. These pieces are interspersed with samples and improvised taksims to create evocative trance soundscapes, a backdrop for dramatic contemporary bellydance.

Zarafa is led by Pin Rada (baglama, ney, lyra) and Mark Planigale (oud, accordion, sax, guitar, vocals), who draw on their Eastern European heritage as well as many years of study in composing and arranging repertoire for the ensemble. They are joined by anywhere between one and eight other performers to create an explosive blend of music and dance guaranteed to captivate any audience.

Zarafa offers:
a high quality professional show
entrancing, visually stunning bellydance
dynamic presentation of traditional musical repertoire
a cutting edge sound combining electronic and acoustic textures
a versatile lineup tailored to the requirements of each event
workshops and classes on Bellydance, Middle Eastern Percussion, Improvising with Eastern Modes, and more…




Zarafa's Music

Sparkling new water from an ancient well.

Zarafa specialises in the music of the Balkans peninsula of Eastern Europe - the "Crossroads of the World" where the ancient cultural tides of Europe, Asia and the Middle East meet. The Balkan countries are home to some of the hottest dance music on the planet, featuring wild rhythms, haunting vocals and soaring instrumental solos that come "straight from the source" - the fire in the soul.

However, Zarafa is not simply a great Balkans band. The key to Zarafa's music is diversity: the band draws upon traditions as wide-ranging as Hungarian gypsy violin music, medieval English songs, Sufi trance music and North African bellydance. The result is an exciting mix of traditional and original music and dance from the Near and Middle East - a feast for the senses.

Zarafa aims to be faithful to the cultural roots of the music we play. We research and use traditional melodies, modes, rhythms and styles of ornamentation from the Balkans and the Arabic world. We also use traditional instruments: baglama saz, ney flutes, Cretan lyra, oud, violin, accordion and others.

While Zarafa draws heavily upon traditional elements, we do not aim is not to achieve a "pure" rendition of this material, nor do we seek to recapture some "golden age" of unadulterated traditional music. Rather, the band seeks to create a unique sound that expresses a contemporary, cosmopolitan Australian identity. We see ourselves as playing a popularising role, presenting the musical traditions of the Balkans and Middle East in ways that make them accessible to mainstream Australian audiences.

We use the term 'Gypsy Fusion' to describe our music. The word 'Gypsy' is used in reference to the wide-ranging journey we have embarked on in search of great music, crossing political, cultural and religious divides; a refusal to be constrained by artificial borders between musical traditions. It draws an analogy with the role of the Rom people, whose journeys over many centuries have played a crucial part in the adoption and dissemination of musical influences throughout Europe and the Middle East. We use the term 'Gypsy Fusion' to refer to our musical style, not the band members. We do not claim to be of Rom descent or in any way to speak on behalf of the Rom people. We are, however, supportive of struggles against discrimination and persecution in many parts of the world, including the struggles of the Rom people. For more information about the history and current status of the Rom people, we recommend the excellent book "Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey" by Isabel Fonseca.




Zarafa's Performances

View a historical list of Zarafa's performances


Zarafa is a great example of the contemporary movement in Australian music to explore the many cultural strands that migrants have brought to enrich this society. We communicate a message of delight in the many peoples, cultures and environments that make up Australia.

Zarafa has become renowned for colourful live performances combining virtuoso instrumental technique with emotional intensity. A Zarafa gig is as much a feast for the soul as for the ears.

Zarafa has toured within Australia, bringing diverse cultural influences to places where they might not otherwise be heard. In so doing the band has developed a following with audiences ranging from primarily Anglo-Celtic crowds in country towns, to primarily Turkish and Middle Eastern audiences in the Northern suburbs of Melbourne.

Zarafa has performed in a wide variety of venues, from tiny cafes to concert halls. The band has played at many of the well-known world music venues in Melbourne, including The Boite, Barbukka, the Big House and many more. Zarafa has also attracted good crowds at festivals such as the Brunswick Music Festival, Chewton Folk Festival, Pako Festa, Hume Winter Festival, the Bendigo Easter Fair and others. Zarafa performs and tours with dancers, including expressive dancer Madhussa and bellydancers Sarah and Tanleea. Zarafa has also presented theatrical performances including a 90-minute children's show entitled "The Tale of the Giraffe".




Zarafa's Stories

Every piece we play has a story.

Stories are woven through the fabric of Zarafa's music. Each has a history; some stretching back centuries, some only a few days. Some are stories about our own lives; some about historical events; some resonate with the fables found in many cultures. We tell them, act them out, bring them to life with our instruments and voices. One of our aims in performing is to communicate these stories, their strangeness, joy and wonder, to our audience.

Here are the beginnings of some of the stories that are bound up with our music...


Zarafa... the tale of the giraffe

Our name Zarafa derives from the Arabic word for giraffe. We chose this name to commemorate the story of the most famous giraffe in history, who in the 1820's journeyed from her birthplace in the Ethiopian highlands, across North Africa and the Mediterranean, to reach Paris where she became part of the royal menagerie of King Charles X. Along the way she caused riots as people flocked from their fields and villages to marvel at this amazing animal. With her spectacular "forked lightning" coat and her gentle nature, Zarafa charmed everyone who saw her. You can read more about the true story of this amazing animal in Michael Allin's book of the same name.


The princess and the gypsies

"Once upon a time, a princess lived with her father the King and her mother the Queen, in a huge old stone castle. She had everything she could want: rich foods, beautiful tapestries, teachers to impart knowledge and servants to attend to her every desire. But she was lonely. The thick walls which ensured her safety also cut her off from the wide world beyond. Then late one night she heard the distant strains of raucous gypsy music, drifting up from the town below..."



Imam Bayildi (Marvellous eggplants)

"At last the prayers are over and the Turkish priest walks home after a long day's work. As he makes his way through the cobbled streets, he is surrounded by the sounds and smells of the evening: car horns blaring, children shouting, the sizzle of onion frying and the smell of freshly baked pide. One particularly tantalising aroma grows stronger and stronger as he nears his home. His wife has been busy preparing a fabulous meal of eggplants…"


Aisha's revenge

"Many centuries ago there lived a woman named Aisha, a famous dancer. It is said that she was one of the most passionate and entrancing women of her day. Eventually news of her beauty reached the ears of the Sultan, a man who knew no limits to his desire for control. He summoned her to appear before the royal court. When she refused, he sent soldiers to capture her, and forced her to dance for him at the point of a sword - the ultimate humiliation for a woman to whom freedom was everything. Aisha nursed her anger through many long nights and at last devised a plan to exact vengeance. With the aid of a large amount of gold, she enlisted the services of an alchemist and a black magician, and set about her terrible plan..."



Born with a halo

"Imagine a tiny village that clings to the mountainside in Istra, western Croatia. One chapel; one pub; one schoolroom; a thousand narrow goat tracks winding among rocks and scrub. This is the place of my father's childhood. I say his childhood, not his birth, even though my grandmother lived there all her life. Because there was something curious about my father's birth…"




Croatia picture

Home I About Zarafa I Performers I Recordings I Events I Cultural Touring I Media Kit I Contact

© Copyright Zarafa 2004-7 Updated July 07