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Daphna Sadeh: Through Walls

By Published: June 3, 2009
AAJ: Did you play many concerts around the country?

DSN: Yes, mainly in Israel, and I even recorded a CD with them. One of them was a guest of the Voyagers in London when we gave a performance in the Purcell Room.

AAJ: Was this the East-West Ensemble?

DSN: No, that was an Israeli group which actually also had Jewish musicians who came as new immigrants to Israel from Tajikistan and they joined the East-West Ensemble. They played a percussion instrument called doira; it looks like a frame drum but they were magicians with it, a father and two sons, one of whom also played accordion and sang as well. So that was a different group.

AAJ: It seems terribly ironic that Israel, which is one of the most multi-cultural countries on the face of the Earth should also be one of the most divided. Are there any projects to bring together Palestinian and Israeli musicians that you are aware of?

DSN: Well, I wouldn't say Palestinians—you know sometimes the Arab-Israelis call themselves Palestinians, that's why I called my previous CD Walking the Thin Line (33 Record, 2007) because there is a very thin line all the time. It doesn't exist here in the UK; on the contrary, sometimes I was rejected by venues where the owners were Middle Eastern. They wouldn't let me perform there because I'm Israeli. And I'm a very left-wing person.

But in Israel there are lots of musical collaborations between, if you want to call them Palestinians, and Israelis, but not Palestinians from Gaza. It used to be like that but not now.

AAJ: Do you think improvisational concerts between Palestinians (living on the West Bank) and Israelis would be possible or would it be too politically charged?

Daphna Sadeh NeuDSN: They wouldn't let it happen now, unfortunately. I have to tell you that one of the reasons I'm not in Israel right now is because I have a feeling that unfortunately things are not really possible right now and I just didn't want to be part of this cycle of violence.

We have a friend in Gaza who basically we support. We've sent him money. It's someone we've known for years when he was in Tel Aviv but now he can't go there. There are collaborations, but not really with Palestinians because you can't really do much now. It is my hope that it will change.

AAJ: This is maybe a good time to talk about the title of your new album, Reconciliation; would you like to talk a little about where that title comes from?

DSN: Reconciliation is not only political; if people were more at peace with themselves then the ability to create peace around them would be much greater. I think in general reconciliation is something which the world needs a bit, and not only between Israelis and Palestinians.

AAJ: Do you think music has that power to reconcile?

DSN: Yes, very much. I think music has the power...maybe that's one of the reasons on this CD I didn't want to compose melancholic music which you referred to. Although it's part of human emotions, I've been in too many situations where it was really sad and I wanted to bring the other side of the coin, at least on this CD.

I do think music can make people connect to themselves and of course to make more dialogue between people. Can you imagine the world without music? It's not possible.

AAJ: What prompted you to go to New York?

DSN: Well, I didn't want to study in Israel. At first I had thought of going to Europe, but sometimes you plan something and something else happens and that's exactly what happened. I really wanted to go to Europe but found myself studying in New York, and I'm happy that that's how it happened.

AAJ: That could almost be most people's autobiography title: "I found myself here."

DSN: [laughs] Yeah, it's exactly like that. I think this is maybe the reason that I came back to Europe now. I thought that music making for me could be very good in Europe. It was very good to study in New York, although it wasn't easy at all.

AAJ: Did you go to study classical music?

DSN: Yes, although I was into jazz really, contemporary music, let's put it that way. But I needed the foundation of classical music, classical technique, to do whatever I wanted later on. I never studied composition, just playing my instrument.

AAJ: Are you surprised at the surge in this last 10 years or so of Israeli jazz talent that has arrived in New York?

DSN: First of all, Israelis are very curious, and they are also very ambitious and because we have got used to a very high sense of...surviving, it makes you become more productive and creative. But also in Israel there's not enough room; if you want to develop people go either to New York or to Europe; there are also loads and loads of Israeli musicians in Europe.

AAJ: After New York, you went to London, another great melting pot.

DSN: I moved back to Israel first and then went to the UK.

AAJ: How did you find the music scene in London compared to New York? Was it very different?

Very, very different. Although I loved studying in New York I didn't want to stay there because for me, and this is very personal, there wasn't soul there. There were great technicians and also everybody was so oriented towards their career, career, career. But I didn't find any real soul in what was going on there. So that's why I decided not to stay and I moved back to Israel but I found I just can't be there anymore and so I moved to the UK.

Here in London it is much more laid back than in New York and maybe more open to culture in general, especially to music. But it's a very personal thing; other people will tell you New York is just amazing. It's a question of preference.

Daphna Sadeh Neu l:r: David Lasserson, Koby Israelite, Numan Elyer, Daphna Sadeh, Stewart Curtis, Nim Schwartz and Tigran Aleksanyan

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