Do you know how it is when you listen to a song and from that moment it’s playing in your head for the rest of the day, and you’re humming it…that’s the story with “Wake Up Now” by the musicians Sun Tailor (Arnon Naor) and Saz (Sameh Zakout). And if you must define things, then Sun Tailor is a Jewish Indie Folk artist and Saz is an Arab Hip Hop artist. They met through a Seeds of Peace retreat in the Negev region of Israel hosting Arab and Jewish artists, and they created together. Interviewing Arnon is a little like “milking a cow”…not to mention Saz, who oftentimes prefers answering with short sentences, and preferably in Boston…(last time we met was there, and I was able to elicit a few sentences out of him but mostly a warm hug). So, two souls that I had met on different occasions, met at the Seeds of Peace summer camp and produced an important catchy song that calls upon us all to wake up – and it’s possible. Under the picture, find the full interview.
Arnon, tell us how the song was born?
This song was born during a random jamming session at an artists’ retreat in Mitzpe Ramon. An unplanned meeting between us gave us the inspiration and led to the creation of something completely new. It all started with a wake up call. During the jam, Saz suddenly started to sing by himself Ischa ya naim, a wake up hymn chanted in the streets during Ramadan in order to wake up the supplicants. Something in me immediately responded, and I started to play the rhythm on the guitar. This turned us both on, we started to sing together, and all of a sudden, the song had verses and a chorus.
For the next 48 hours, all I could think about was this song and how best to produce it. Everything flowed very quickly, another verse and chorus in Hebrew were added, and then another verse in English. I sat in the corner of the big room that we were in and I started to record everyone around us, a Swiss violinist, a percussionist, Mira Awad. The culmination was when we recorded a choir consisting of fifteen of the retreat’s participants who all sang with us in a huge hanger. And that’s it, ‘suddenly’ we had a song.
Pictures from the artist retreat in Mitzpe Ramon organized by Seeds of Peace
Personally, this song was a revelation to me, the first time I’ve written and sung in Hebrew, my first time producing and performing something in this style, and who even knows what to call this style, my first time collaborating with another artist and my first time making a local social statement with my music.
Wow Arnon, that’s crazy…what’s the song about?
Just like the first line that birthed the song, it’s our wake-up call. A wake-up call for all of us, to awaken and understand: we’re here together and no one is going anywhere. Both our peoples share a destiny, and the worst thing happening to us is the artificial separation inflicted upon us. We don’t have to agree, we can fight and argue, but we can’t let the powers trying to divide and rule us win, because they’re hurting us. All of us. Saz and I don’t agree about everything, but on this principle we agree completely, and that’s what we’re singing about. We need to wake up as one society, comprising Arabs and Jews in this space and as separate communities.
Saz is talking to the Arab community in Israel that needs to clean house, take a good look at itself and make real changes, not just outwardly. I am talking to my tribe, Israeli Jews, we need to look in the mirror, deal with what we’re seeing there, and decide where we can and should make changes. Above all we need to wake up on an individual level and understand that each of us has a role in the changes to come. Each and every one of us must be part of the effort to create a better reality for all of us!
Here is the clip “Wake up!”
Musically, Wake Up Now is a combination of a Middle Eastern feast and hip-hop beats with a folky acoustic sound. The lyrics contain a line taken from Arab sources and a paraphrase on Rabbi Nachman of Breslov’s sayings – a seemingly surprising connection, but actually it’s quite on par with both traditions. Conceptually, Wake Up Now, as I said before, talks about how we should wake up and understand that we’re here together and must continue to do things together, like we just did.
Why did you decide to drop the song during the elections, in September 2019?
In the course of elections, things that are usually hidden, surface suddenly, and you can no longer deny the ugliness that is reflected in parts of our society. This is an opportunity to examine, with eyes wide open, the goings on, and to try and fix them. In 2019 Israel, everything is political, all the more so when a Jewish artist and an Arab artist produce a song together. Beyond everything, our song is a social/cultural saying. We are already intermixed by virtue of being in the same place, and this, our shared creation, comes from that.
Tell us a little about yourself Arnon
Arnon Sun Tailor, musician and independent producer. Since 2011 I’ve been making music under the name Sun Tailor. I’ve dropped two albums under this name, and in 2020 there will be a third. Through the years I’ve been lucky enough to have my music take me to many places, I’ve performed hundreds of times all over the world (Russia, India, USA, Japan and all over Europe). My music has played on Israeli radio many times, and I have over a million views on the Web.
And a little about Saz?
Saz is the stage name of Sameh Zakout, a rapper and actor from Ramla. Saz’s music was part of the FIFA 2010 soundtrack, featured on a Hollywood series (Nikita) and documentaries (Hip Hop in the Holy Land). As an actor he has played in several films and plays, including Junctions 48 that was highly successful both in Israel and abroad. Saz has performed in festivals all over the world, including Glastonbury in the UK and United Islands in the Czech Republic. He has collaborated with Balkan Beat Box and Hadag Nahash and was the warm-up act for rapper Little Simz when she performed in Israel.
Arnon what are you doing these days?
Following the collaboration with Saz and the joint writing, I’ve come up with the idea of music workshops that I want to organize with Jewish and Arab youth (Yalla Moozika). Until that moment I hadn’t though of the possibility of using music as a tool to connect communities. The meeting and exposure to the activities of Seeds of Peace and other organizations, made me realize that there’s a possibility for positive and creative encounters focused on something clean, like music, that is beyond identities, prejudices and habits that divide us. Today these workshops are a large part of my life, which I’m very happy for. It feels like I hold a large debt to this song and the process is initiated in me. And beyond everything, I woke up through this song!
By the way, we received excellent news! Wake Up Now has entered the Galgalatz playlist which is always a great honor, but particularly with a song that has Arabic in it, and moreover, an Arab singer, that is almost unheard of. In the last decade only four Arab female singers have entered the playlist, but we can’t remember even one male Arab singer who did…can you? Reply in the comments.