After almost two years of self-discovery, collaboration, searching, composing, workshopping, recording, editing, mixing, writing, designing, and mastering, I have finally released my debut album into the world. Entitled “Fragments,” this album features original and traditional music exploring my fragmented Iraqi-Jewish identity.
Though the music is based in Arabic modes and rhythms and played by an ensemble of traditional Arabic instruments, I came into Arabic music relatively late. Growing up in an American Jewish community dominated by European culture, I had very little access to the music, language, and traditions of my Iraqi-Jewish ancestors. As an adult, I’ve had to make a concerted effort to learn Arabic music and language in order to represent my Arab-Jewish ancestry as a musician. Studying these musical traditions has connected me deeply with my roots, but there are still so many parts of my family’s experience about which I will never know. I can no longer ask my grandparents about their life in Baghdad or their departure from Iraq. I can’t visit the land where my ancestors lived for thousands of years.
This led me to wonder: How do we access memories that we don’t remember? How do we overcome the fragmenting forces of migration, lost languages, colonialism, assimilation, and erasure? How do we find beauty amongst the broken pieces?
These were the questions I explored as a community creative fellow between October 2020 through May 2021 in Boston. The Community Creative Fellowship is an initiative of CJP and the Jewish Arts Collaborative that fertilized the ground for me to write and record “Fragments.” As part of the fellowship, I led a series of workshops which nurtured my creative work in ways that I can only begin to describe.
In the workshop, “Making Tangible the Intangible,” my co-fellow Adriana Katzew and I invited participants to explore the objects in their lives that carry meaning and memory through a musical and visual lens. In “Singing Our Stories,” I led participants in conversation around our fragmented identities, and then we collaborated in writing and singing new lyrics to my “mad-libs” song, “From the Fragments.” This song also features a virtual choir of workshop participants singing together on the chorus. Additionally, I invited contributors to record stories and memories about family dishes, which became the introduction to the song “What Would You Say?” Each of these meaningful touch points helped my creative process flourish, and they made this album a rich and deeply meaningful representation of me and my community.
Throughout these collaborations, the shared sense of longing and discovery was magical. The moments of connection with the Jews of Color, Mizrahi, and Sephardi Jews of our community were particularly generative and healing. I discovered I’m not the only one that feels they are rediscovering the music, language, and traditions of their family as an outsider. At the same time, these precious moments helped me to recognize that fragmentation is a valid and meaningful part of my experience in this world—both in its pain and in its beauty.
The release of this album is an opportunity to celebrate. Through the Community Creative Fellowship, amongst other initiatives, the Boston Jewish community has prioritized the creative arts as a vital avenue for connection to our Jewish identities. I know this investment will continue to expand modern Jewish expression to be more inclusive, rich, and diverse.
This post has been contributed by a third party. The opinions, facts and any media content are presented solely by the author, and JewishBoston assumes no responsibility for them. Want to add your voice to the conversation? Publish your own post here. MORE