Jowan Safadi: Breaking The Mold
By: Rasha Hilwi
Published Friday, May 18, 2012
The Palestinian musician continues to defy convention, gathering admirers and enemies in droves along the way.
Acre - Despite Jowan Safadi’s (b. 1973) longstanding relationship with music, Palestinian cultural circles have only recently began to recognize the artist, who just released his first solo album, Namroud (Troublemaker).
His relocation to Bir al-Sabah (Beersheba) — where he set up the alternative rock band Lenzez with anti-Zionist Israeli musicians — was enough to keep this son of Nazareth in the shadows for some time.
“I never felt like my colleagues in the band were Israelis; they were leftists, and possessed a high level of political awareness. They refused to serve in the military and abhorred the occupation establishment,” Jowan told Al-Akhbar.
He released three albums in 10 years with Lenzez, before some political parties in Israel began marketing the band as a model for “coexistence,” as a PR stunt in international art and media forums.
At the time — around the bloody Israeli invasion of Jenin — Jowan decided to step up his political songs, which gave the band an “extremist” reputation among Israelis.
“It was the beginning of an awakening that helped me re-establish reality in my head, especially with my increasing political awareness,” Jowan explained.
For this reason, he left Bir al-Sabah for Haifa, where he established a new band with Palestinian artists.
While participating in a street festival in Haifa, his performance was stopped midway through because of the songs being too “controversial, as they shed light on racism, refugee conditions, and political prisoners, and is also hard for the Jewish audience,” according to what Haifa municipal officials told him.
An investigation into the matter was opened by right-wing Knesset member Aryeh Eldad, accusing Jowan of “inciting violence and terrorism,” only to be closed two months later for lack of evidence.
Jowan chose to play the guitar because it is “strong, expressive, has multiple potentials, and is the most suitable for the type of singing and music I offer,” he said.
He didn’t pick western music on purpose. “It was only a step I took without thinking,” he remarked.
Namroud rebels against reality and ready-made molds.
The idea for the album began with a sentence Jowan wrote on his Facebook page, “I think, therefore I rebel.”
He began by writing songs on “normal” daily life and social issues, describing love, country, religion, faith, sex, joy, and pain, approaching the issues with satire.
Many concerns surround the daring young musician, “but I will not allow them to impede my journey and prevent me from saying what I believe,” he insisted.
Sometimes, he feels “like he’s yelling ‘the king has no clothes on,’ expecting a slap from the entourage.”
Jowan Safadi has received many threats and frequent insults, but maintains that he will continue his journey, breaking all barriers and taboos.
Journey From The Himalayas
Jowan Safadi’s relationship with music did not begin in Palestine, but in India.
He was on a trip to the Himalayas 20 years ago, when he decided to turn his poetry and thoughts into song.
Immediately, he bought a guitar and tried to play on his own, without much success.
So, he found himself in the Himalayas with a heavy bag and a guitar he couldn’t play, and decided to get rid of the instrument before he came back to Palestine.
Later, he bought another guitar: “I gave it as a gift to myself on my 21st birthday,” he recalled.
That’s when his musical career began and it has been in constant motion for the past 19 years.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.