‘Our music is the poetry of middle-class people’

‘Our music is the poetry of middle-class people’

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‘Our music is the poetry of middle-class people’

Lead singer of the Israeli band Jamaya, Tamir Hillel, spoke to Kritika Dua about their unique creations

The foundation of Jamaya was laid by three childhood friends — Tal Araya, Tamir Hillel and Naor Eliyahu. Initially, music was just a hobby, but after Hillel was badly injured things changed. As he struggled to play again, it made the other band members more serious. “As soon as he returned to his guitar we were ready to take the band to the next level.” Their music comprises upbeat rhythms blended with simple and honest lyrics that comes straight from the heart

The band was recently in the city and enthralled the audience to songs such as We are on the map, Bad memories for sale, The safe place, Amos, Meanwhile here, The chase, What are you afraid of, Salam salam, Ya Jama’a and Sidi habibi.

Jamaya plays a Middle Eastern electronic groove — a mix between Yemenite and Moroccan music with reggae, dancehall and electronic music. Old roots music from Arab-Jewish culture mixed with modern genres from Europe and the US also form a part of their songs. Said he, “Our writing style is quiet honest and simple, because for us Jamaya is the poetry of the middle-class people. We use a few slangs and Arab words in our lyrics, but the crucial thing is that one doesn’t have to be an academician or a professor in order to understand the meaning of the songs.”

Hillel opened up about his songwriting style. “The lyrics are very diverse. Each and every song is written about daily topics taken from Israel from a unique point of view. They are mostly about the personal thoughts of each and every one of us, how we think and act as individuals in this modern society. Also, the society’s expectations from from us. A journey from our childhood (The band members began to play six year ago when they were just 16-year-olds) lead us to this day. We approach the lyrics with a positive point of view and think that this positive approach is a part of the solution for every terrible thing that can happen. Music can help people find solutions to diverse range of world problems.”

Bands go through a lot of challenges during formative years and Jamaya’s journey was no different. “Like every band we had certain formative changes especially in the position of the drummer, but these challenges are nothing when compared to the current musical scenario. In contemporary times, sticking together as a band is way more difficult than being a solo artist. The distribution of profit earned or even the promotion of a band is more complicated. How many big bands right now are touring and being successful at the same time? Most of them are the remains of the glory times of the 70’s, 80’s and the 90’s. All this is a part of the struggle that bands go through but we view it as an advantage — we are three creative minds instead of one. Together we are stronger.”

Hillel shared some fascinating details about the musical journey, “If you came to us at the age of 15 and asked us, ‘Will you be performing live around the world in 12 years?’ We would have probably laughed it off. We were ambitious back than also but spreading our music around the world seemed like a distant dream and quiet impossible. The social media made it possible and contributed in making our dreams come true. We are talking about a journey that started back home with us playing together at street shows to grand stages and acclaimed festivals today. But, nothing happens in a day, it’s a slow process. This journey started with small and energetic street shows. Four years ago, we tested our music in street shows at Tel-Aviv (a city in Israel). We played our songs for tourists and locals to check if music connects people, and guess what? it worked! After we saw that the people liked the music we cut our first album, touring Israel, UK and India. My advice would be that if you want something in life work hard in order to achieve it.”

The band has performed at more than 400 shows in the last two years including festivals like Zorba, Goldstar beer festival, Shalom festival , Delhi Internationl Arts Festival and many more. They have collaborated with many Israeli artists including Benaia Barabi, Shiran, Aveva, Iki levy and Peled.

Their most memorable gig was the opening gig for the tour with their first album. “We were very nervous and some of us were afraid that people will not come to our show. The Barby club looked empty from our dressing room and we already thought that it’s going to be a disaster. When they called us up to the stage we saw that the club was full of fans and there was not a single empty seat. It was a special feeling after writing songs and playing our music in the street to suddenly see 1000 people in our first show. It was a special feeling!”

He believes that music has the power to bind people together. “During our last tour of India we discovered again how music can bind people together. Although half of the show is in Hebrew, the audience was with us all the way, cheering and dancing with the beats. Thus, music acts as a bridge between cultures. All of us in the band listen to musicians from all over the world no matter the language: Arabic, Hindu, French, German and even Amharic. How many people in the world really understood Gangnam style before the native speakers translated it?”

On similarities between the India and Israels’ music, he said, “Indian music is different from Israeli one. The cultural influences between our two countries come from almost opposite sides of the spectrum. The beauty of art is that you can enjoy it even without knowing the language and art can connect people through invoking their emotions. In our short visit we haven’t seen a fraction of what India has to offer in terms of art, but from what we have seen it is amazing. For example for us the Hindu music sounds extremely unique and we can’t find something similar to this type of music anywhere else. It’s a very special combination of harmonies, melodies, rhythm and voice techniques that we had never heard in the Western world or in Israel.”

On audience response, “The audience here in India is amazing! In some of the shows, the clapping and shouting was so loud that we barely heard the drum kit on stage. From the first minute we got up on stage until the last minute each and every person in the crowd gave his best. At each venue on our way we discovered how good and welcoming the people of India are. Thanks to that we are already planning our next visit in India.”

On their key to success, Hillel noted, “We think that the key for our success is our positive approach to life and one another. We are like a family. Jamaya is not a project that changes players every month. Each and every band member become part of the Jamaya family. The band name came from the word Jama’a in Arabic which means family. If you are in one of our shows you are already part of family too.” The band comprises– Tal Araya (Singer/bass); Tamir Hillel (Singer/Acoustic guitar/Buzuki) ; Naor Eliyahu (Electric guitar); Ron Bakal (Keyboards/vocals); Lior Grayevsky (Saxophone/ Clarinet) and Mich Korkus (Drums).

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