‘WHAT SAZ (pictured) has said in the past and what we both believe is that we’re representing music, harmony and dialogue,’ says Jerusalem-based rapper Sagol 59 in connection to his Ramle-based counterpart..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When dozens of artists gather for a world peace concert taking place Sunday night in the Netherlands, you can put good money on the bet that much of the media attention will go to the representatives from Israel and Palestine.
Veteran Jerusalem-based rapper Sagol 59 (Khen Rotem), known as the “Israeli godfather of hip hop,” will team up with SAZ, the stage name for outspoken Ramle-based rapper Sameh Zakout, to perform together and separately at the event organized by the MasterPeace, a global peace initiative that is active in over 40 countries, many of them conflict areas.
According to the organization’s promotional material, the goal of the concert, taking place on the UN’s annual International Day of Peace, is to “fuel dialogue and at the same time focus the world’s attention on what we all share: the longing for a sustainable world with less armed conflicts.”
Joining Sagol 59 and SAZ onstage will be artists from dozens of countries, including Syria, South Sudan, Ukraine, Iran and Lebanon. Speaking to Rotem and Zakout before they flew to the Netherlands for rehearsals last week, they both expressed readiness for the inevitable questions that will be tossed at them regarding this past summer’s war.
“We’re definitely going to be in the crosshairs, but we can hold our own,” said Rotem, adding that he was undaunted about confrontations with artists from enemy countries.
“I’m looking forward to meeting my colleagues from Syria and Iran. I’ve performed before with Iranians and Lebanese in the US. They said, ‘we thought it wouldn’t be OK to talk to the Israeli guy, but once we met you we made an exception.’ I told them, ‘who’s telling you who you can or can’t talk to? Nobody tells me.’” “Once you meet them backstage, usually all the prejudices go out the window and the preconceived notions melt away. We’re musicians connecting on a personal and artistic level.”
SAZ agreed that as musicians, he expected everyone to get along, and praised the MasterPeace efforts.
“We have to choose sides, and projects like these are a clear reminder that you don’t want to be on the wrong side of the map – you need to be on the side of democracy and human rights,” he said.
Both he and Sagol downplayed the Israeli citizen SAZ performing as Palestine’s representative.
“We were chosen because we’re great musicians, not because we’re from Palestine, Israel or anywhere else,” said SAZ.
“I’m an international ethnic rapper and have been making music for 15 years. A Jewish rapper would never be asked what his identity is, so why should I be asked?” “What SAZ has said in the past and what we both believe is that we’re representing music, harmony and dialogue,” added Sagol, pointing out that he and SAZ have been friends and collaborators for over a decade.
“We want to emphasize the positive aspects of different people making music and art together. We’re not getting into current affairs, but look at it from a wider perspective of different nationalities and religions having a dialogue and speaking as human beings.”
The Israeli artists were recruited to the global project with the help of Tel Avivbased music publishing company Media Man Group, long active in involving its roster in international projects related to coexistence. Besides the loftier goals, the concert will also expose Sagol and SAZ to a huge worldwide audience. It will be streamed online is expected by Master- Peace to reach millions of viewers.
“Supported by Google and YouTube we expect this MasterPeace broadcast to inspire hundreds of thousands of people to join our global movement and start developing peace-building works on a grassroots level,” the organization stated.