My father reached Israel in 1949 from a village district in Yemen called Koh’lan, which gave us and everyone who came from there our last name (pronounced “Koh’lani”).
My father taught us the correct way to pray and read the Torah the Yemeni way. We pray and sing in both Hebrew and Arabic, but even in Hebrew, it still sounds a bit Arabic.
Music is my best way of communicating. Over the years, Yemen Blues has attracted many listeners and followers from across the world, including, naturally, Arabic-speaking countries. I feel good about being a human being who is making music, not focused on flags.
I see all cultures as beautiful. I don’t represent any specific place or thing. I’m just a guy who is lucky enough to be able to share his music with the world, hoping to leave behind a gift for others to enjoy. I find inspiration for creativity through love, through everything that is good, and believe in breaking down walls and boundaries, removing all dividers between people, and just finding joy in our lives. If you see your life as a miracle, you could easily see the million miracles that happen to you every day.
Yemen Blues is an intense spiritual experience, a journey which began in 2008 when I met bassist Omer Avital. I was influenced by North and West African music and Afro-American music, from very old blues to jazz and funk. Omer is a jazz guy, living in New York for decades now, and we did this project together in Israel. I fell in love with his love of music, his talent for arrangement, his energy and everything about him.
He agreed to work with me on a few melodies I had, so we started rehearsing between New York and Tel Aviv. A few months later, Rony Iwryn, Itamar Doari and Itamar Borochov joined our ranks, and later also Avi Lebovich, Hadar Noiberg, Hila Epstein and Galia Hai — bringing us to nine people at the time of recording our first album.
Our first major appearance was in Marseille, France, in 2010. Our four songs lasted about 10 minutes each, but a day after this showcase performance, we went viral and became the most booked act in contemporary music — the very next day. We’ve been touring ever since.
Today, our new sound has evolved and we have our current quartet (with bass and oud player Shanir Blumenkranz, percussionist Rony Iwryn and drummer Dan Mayo), the strongest, tightest, and most danceable Yemen Blues touring band to date. We’ve recorded two new tribute albums, one dedicated to the poetry of Yemenite Rabbi Salem Shabazi, and my arrangement of the entire Jewish “Hallel” prayer. This year we will record a third original studio album, our first in seven years.