Mira Awad’s delicate balancing act

The Israeli-Arab singer feels that ‘if we stop having fun with music, things will be much worse’ – a particularly poignant sentiment in the wake of the recent wave of violence.

December 2, 2015 20:01
4 minute read.
Mira Awad

‘I AM no politician, and I don’t deal in political solutions... I am just a musician trying say something through my work, with the hope that it will open up a little window through which people can see other people who just want to live a normal life, bring up their kids and live in peace,’ says Is. (photo credit: DANIEL TCHETCHIK / COURTESY MIRA AWAD)

A series of four concerts featuring female vocalists will start at the Museum of Islamic Art in Jerusalem today. The weekly Thursday show billing includes – in chronological order – Mira Awad, Rotem Shefy (aka Shefita), Lubneh Salame and Nisreen Kadry. Museum director Nadim Shiban appears to have all socioethnic bases covered, with a lineup that takes in a Christian who is married to a Ukrainian man who is half-Jewish, half-Christian, two Muslims – one of whom, for some time, considered converting to Judaism – and a Jewish singer who normally adopts the stage persona of a non-Jewish Yemenite raised in the United States. While the above cross-cultural amalgam may sound like the intro to a joke, in fact, the series offers top quality entertainment with a wide swathe of sonic and disciplinary intent.

Mira Awad has certainly done her bit to present the public with eclectic entertainment over the years. In 2009, she shared a stage with Noa, as the country’s representatives in the Eurovision Song Contest, when the duo performed “There Must Be Another Way,” in Hebrew, Arabic and English, and Awad continues to sing pop and rock in Hebrew and Arabic, as well as classics of the Arabic repertoire.

While Awad has been a spokesperson for dialogue and coexistence for some time, the current wave of violence throws her music and stance, and the museum series, into even sharper relief.

“I hope my music is of some importance in itself,” she notes. “My materials generally emphasize the need to live together in peace, and that we have no alternative, even if there are those who fantasize about some other goals. At some stage we have to build the bridges we need, and to find the sane way to achieve that. Of course, what has been happening in the last month is totally insane.”

While Awad does her best to convey positive peaceful messages she does not purport to having a quick fix for our regional troubles.

“I am no politician, and I don’t deal in political solutions,” she stresses. “I am just a musician trying say something through my work, with the hope that it will open up a little window through which people can see other people who just want to live a normal life, bring up their kids and live in peace.”

In fact, around a year ago Awad used a different, primarily non-musical, avenue of expression when she gave a TEDx address based on the theme of bahlawan, which means “acrobat” in Arabic. It is also the name of a song she wrote, and which she will perform at the museum, which refers to the constant balancing act she is forced to maintain, and to walk the fine line between the Jewish and Arab worlds, and between the Christian and Muslim communities.

“‘Bahlawan’ is one of the most important songs in my repertoire, and it is the title track of my first album,” she says. “It has an important message. I don’t make speeches but I know how to speak, and to talk about my ideas.”

However, at the end of the day, people who go to Awad’s shows don’t go looking for a soap-box session. They admire her voice, music and stage delivery. Awad says she is fine with that, and that she is first and foremost an entertainer.

“Not all my songs address these issues, of peace and the need to live in peace,” she notes. “I touch on social issues and that sort of thing, but I have lots of regular songs, about love and disappointment, and about interpersonal things. The show in Jerusalem is not going to be about the current tensions. I have been singing pop and rock songs for a long time now.”

Awad is currently working on a new album, her third, although she says her fans should not hold their breath.

“It is taking a long time because I am so busy with all kinds of things. I wrote a TV series for Channel One, which I hope will soon go into production when the budgets are eventually freed up.”

That, and the logistics of keeping her career on the right tracks, both here and abroad, means that Awad has little time for creating new material.

“Sometimes I have to force myself to sit down and write because otherwise it might never happen.”

And there are fleeting golden moments of inspiration.

“I can find myself in a particular situation, when I react in a certain emotional way, and I immediately get an idea for a song. So I take my cell phone and record a little snippet, and hopefully get around to expanding on the idea at a later stage. You know, there is no shortage of emotion and inspirational moments and situations in this country.”

Awad will draw on her recorded, and as yet unrecorded, works to date for tomorrow’s show and, sociopolitical observations aside, she basically just wants people to enjoy her music.

“You know, will all the violence and the problems we have now, the music has to be fun,” she declares. “If we stop having fun with music things will be much worse.

That’s important too. Let’s not forget that.”

For more information and tickets: www.islamicart.co.il.

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