Dudu Tassa and Jonny Greenwood today introduce a second track from their upcoming collaborative release ‘Jarak Qaribak’, out 9th June. ‘Taq ou-Dub’ features the vocals of Nour Freteikh from Ramallah, and is accompanied by a live performance visual filmed live at the Hamam in Tel Aviv.
Tassa and Greenwood said of the collaboration: “The first song we recorded for this project was Taq ou-Dub. It’s an old Lebanese song, now performed by Nour Freteikh and in fact it was the starting point for the entire album, connecting Ramallah, Tel Aviv, Beirut and Oxford. Nour, such an incredible singer, first recorded her vocal track remotely but eventually, the three of us got together in person to rehearse and perform – and connect properly. We feel very lucky – and very proud – to have made a song, and a friendship, with such a remarkable musician as Nour.”
Nour Freteikh commented: “It was a nice opportunity to work with and learn from artists from other places. The song is very special – it’s an old one with a great tune. We enjoyed making it our own.”
Produced by Tassa & Greenwood and mixed by Nigel Godrich, ‘Jarak Qaribak’ (translating from Arabic as ‘Your Neighbour Is Your Friend’) brings together vocalists and musicians from throughout the Middle East. ‘Ashufak Shay’, featuring Lebanese vocalist Rashid al-Najjar, was the first track to be unveiled from the album.
Tassa and Greenwood have announced more dates in November, including appearances at Le Guess Who in the Netherlands and Pitchfork Music Festival in Berlin. See below for a full list of dates including London’s Hackney Church.
Israeli rock star Tassa and Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood have known each other for a long time. They’ve collaborated before – Jonny played guitar on ‘Eize Yom’ (‘What A Day’), a track on Dudu’s 2009 album ‘Basof Mitraglim Le’Hakol (‘In The End You Get Used To Everything). Asked what he likes about Jonny’s playing, Dudu replies “It’s everything I can’t do, and don’t know how to do.” Jonny, who is married into an Israeli family hailing originally from Iraq and Egypt, remembers hearing Dudu’s music twinkling amid the prevailing gloom of mid-noughties Israeli rock when Radiohead first visited. “What Dudu was doing had its roots in the Middle East,” says Jonny, “and I just found that more interesting. I was hearing that music at home a lot, as well.”
The songs on the album, and the singers, are drawn from all over the Middle East – and, in keeping with the theme established by the album’s title (translating, more or less, as “Your Neighbour Is Your Friend”), each singer takes a turn at a tune from a country other than their own. So ‘Djit Nishrab’, a sultry, slow-building lament to love gone wrong by 1940s Algerian singer Ahmed Wahby, is performed by the 2020s Egyptian singer Ahmed Doma. ‘Taq ou-Dub’, a defiant kiss-off, is performed by the Palestinian singer Nour Freteikh. When Dudu takes a lead vocal himself, it’s on ‘Lhla Yzid Ikhtar, borrowed from Morocco. When a Moroccan – in this instance, Mohssine Salaheddine – steps up, it’s on the Egyptian track ‘Leylet Hub’. The Jordanian traditional ‘Ya ‘Anid Ya Yaba’ is sung by a Syrian. And when the song is Israeli – as ‘Ahibak’ is – it’s sung by Safae Essafi, from Dubai.
Though Dudu says that he scrutinised every lyric as carefully as he could for even the vaguest hint of a political subtext, and insists – accurately – that “Jarak Qaribak” is an album of classic love songs, the romance and heartbreak they chronicle exclusively personal, neither Dudu nor Jonny are naïve enough to believe that nobody will project their own political prejudices onto this project, favourably or otherwise. “We didn’t want,” says Jonny, “to make out that we’re making any political point, but I do understand that as soon as you do anything in that part of the world it becomes political, even if it’s just artistic. Actually, possibly especially if it’s artistic.”
Dudu, however, believes that it would have been an act of bad faith to make “Jarak Qaribak” any other way. “Israel,” he notes, “is a small country between all those countries, so we’re very influenced by those cultures and by that music. And a lot of us in Israel – like my family – are descended from people who came here from elsewhere in the Middle East, so everything gets mixed up.”
That said, neither are keen for the multi-national nature of “Jarak Qaribak” to be read as some corny, mawkish exercise in attempting to teach the world to sing. Both stress that every decision they made was in the interest of serving an extraordinary songbook (and they have already started swapping ideas for a sequel). “That was never a conscious ambition,” says Jonny. “It wasn’t the starting point, anyway. It’s maybe a by-product, if you’re lucky. Otherwise, it’s just: aren’t these songs great, aren’t these musicians amazing, and what a singer, what a voice. That’s all it’s about, really. But if the songs are from all over the Middle East, why shouldn’t the singers be?”
“It’s a letter in a bottle, thrown into the ocean,” decides Dudu. “Who will get it, who will hear it, I don’t know. But someone will love it.”
Djit Nishrab (feat. Ahmed Doma)
Ashufak Shay (feat. Rashid Al Najjar)
Taq ou-Dub (feat. Nour Freteikh)
Leylet Hub (feat. Mohssine Salaheddine)
Ya Mughir al-Ghazala (feat. Karrar Alsaadi)
Ahibak (feat. Safae Essafi)
Ya ‘Anid Ya Yaba (feat. Lynn A.)
Lhla Yzid Ikthar
Jan al-Galb Salik (feat. Noamane Chaari & Zaineb Elouati)
02 November – Berlin, DE – Pitchfork Music Festival
04 November – Paris, FR – La Seine Musicale
07 November – Gent, BE – Vooruit
November 9th – Utrecht, NL – Le Guess Who Festival
November 10th – London, UK – Pitchfork Music Festival (Hackney Church)