Juez is old news. DJ Handler isn't the right handle. On his upcoming journey to the Holy Land, promoter, producer and musician Erez Safar returns to his Yemenite roots, appearing under his new name, Diwon. Safar chose it due to its meaning as a book of songs (in Yemenite, Persian and Urdu), but also, "because someone can think of it as a hip hop name." In fact, the name should be familiar to veterans of the Jerusalem hip hop scene as the name of an old bar where many of Safar's musical collaborators (such as Sagol 59 and Sha'anan Streett) used to perform. But Safar has never been strictly a hip hop musician. And, his new project aims to incorporate different elements that go way beyond any one musical genre. He began his musical career in college, when he founded the klezmer band Juez, headlining shows at Hillel and crashing fraternity parties (or at least, one of my fraternity parties). As DJ Handler, he spun genres as varied as Afro-beat, Arabic music and bmore electronica (a type of club music originating from Baltimore) while also managing and DJing for Y-Love, the hottest Hassidic hip hop sensation whose name doesn't rhyme with "Natisyahu." But as Diwon, Safar is looking to explore his Yemenite roots, going back to the land his grandmother left before landing in Israel by way of Ethiopia. According to Safar, he is looking to "create something with a Jewish type of music which is either original drawing on traditional elements or new arrangements of older, traditional music." He's not committed to playing his own compositions only. Instead, he looks to play the music of whatever vocalist with whom he'll perform. This leads him to myriad musical genres, including the jazz show he will be performing in Jaffa with Yemenite vocalist Michal Cohen.
Diwon performs on June 17 at Jerusalem's Hataklit (7 Heleni HaMalka St.), free entrance at 9 p.m. and on June 18 with special guests Michal Cohen, Gilad Suberri and Sam Thomas at Hasimta Theatre's Jazz Alley Club (8 Mazal Dagim, Old Jaffa (03)681-2126) on the roof for NIS 40 to 55.
Safar plans to return again in August (perhaps as Diwon, or perhaps as an incarnation yet to be named) in promotion of Y-Love's debut studio album, This is Babylon.