Over the last year I have had the opportunity to be on tour as both a solo theater writer/performer and as a vocalist/lyricist. These two artistic identities for me are deeply interconnected, in style, process and content. Here’s a little bit on why.
My music is an extension and continuation of my solo show Homeless in Homeland. Through the content and style of Homeless in Homeland I portray a bit of what I experience as a new flavor of Jewish culture and politics; in my music I am becoming and continuing the creation of that culture. I am not alone in this movement as I see it reflected in the artistic and social justice work of theater/music artist Ariel Lucky, the social justice work of Rae Abileah and Michael Gould-Wartofsky, the writings and humor of Josh Healey, the music of Balkan Beat Box and other culture makers, some of whom I have not yet to encounter.
Both my solo theater show and the spoken word album Homeless in Homeland close with a piece entitled Urban American Jewess. In this piece I articulate a form of Jewish identity that I do not see presented in mainstream media, or even in popular counter culture… yet. It is an identity that is culturally hybrid —influenced by the cornucopia of cultures that coexist in urban America— while rooted in a sense of Jewish-ness. It is an identity that stands for justice, a principle taught to me as part of Jewish culture. Working for justice is also deeply imbedded in American street culture, which has informed both my artistic aesthetics and worldview. In Urban American Jewess, I began to explore and articulate this identity, specifically in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In my music I am able to more fully embody this identity and offer Urban American Jewish culture to audiences, both new and old.
This Urban American Jewish identity is reflected in the content and flavors of the music I have written since I was a teen. Jazz trained and hip-hop educated, my sound is influenced by the black American music canon with flairs of Jewish, Latin, Middle-Eastern and American folks traditions. All these cultures are present in the Homeless in Homeland theater show through the seven cultural dance forms used in the choreography throughout, and are brought together in the finale Urban American Jewess which begins with the line “i claim Urban American Jewess” as a declaration of new identity and perspective. On the Homeless in Homeland spoken word album, these different cultures are present in the instruments and samples used. At this point in my career, my music as arranged for live performances of does include specific instrumentation from these different music genres, but I hear their influence in the melodies and percussion patterns of my compositions and in the tone and character of my voice. I imagine the world folk music album I sang on with the Vanaver Caravan when I was nine years old, made an impact on how I began to think, hear and write my own music.
The lyrics in some of my songs do continue the conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, of which Homeless in Homeland focuses on predominantly. The difference is that with my lyricism I am able to address this conflict through poetic reference rather than as a detailed account. I am using music as a platform through which to speak more universally. This is what music does well, whereas theater creates universality by being extremely specific. The specificity of Homeless in Homeland continues to be part of my dramaturgical research for my music.
In my music, love has begun to occupy more space. Lightly touched on in Homeless In Homeland is the relationship between romantic/sexual love and patriarchy/nationalism., particularly as a woman. This struggle between romantic love, self love and patriarchy continues to be a theme in my lyricism and in these topics find myself in similar subject matter as artists like Nneka the Nigerian/German vocalist, lyricist and songwriter. Music refreshes me as it offers me even more space to explore these subjects and express my findings.
As a solo show artist who focuses on stories of violence that people hold strongly conflicting opinions about, it continues to be necessary for me to go deeply into a place of compassion and love for the characters that I portray. This orientation towards love is the backbone of my musical content whether my lyrics are on the topics of romance or politics. One of my lyrics from the Woman in Dub album with Dubblestandard, is “i’m a warrior, my weapon is love”. It is through Homeless in Homeland that I learned this to be a central truth of my work and my message.
To sum this up, my work as a music artist is a way for the core principles of Homeless in Homeland to take flight, while the theater show continues to be a grounding force for the aesthetics and content of my work as a music artist. If you are a fan of the style and content of
Homeless in Homeland, let my music be the sequel. If you are a fan of my music, let Homeless in homeland be the back-story.
Big thanks to the following artists and producers; Shyamala Moorty, Mahayana Landowne, Troy Alcendor, E Amato and Paul Zasky of Dubblestandart for your work in making the art and the touring of it a reality.