RUNNING a music blog…
means, at times, speaking to an artist who hails from a part of the world, one assumes, has a very narrow music scene. I have been talking with Jordan’s Jaafar about his career and the musical culture of his country. He opens up about his latest track, Yara, and the story behind it; how it differs from the mega-successful, Sixteen, and whether more material will come – and the tour dates he has booked.
Jaafar tells me about his influences and why Peter Gabriel is a big draw; whether there is a moment to reflect outside of music; if he will come to the U.K. and see us at some point – also; if he can recall the first album he ever bought!
Hi, Jaafar. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello! It’s been great so far. Tiring but great. We’re half-way through a press tour to promote my new single.. so there’s been a lot of traveling.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Sure. My name is Jaafar. I’m a singer and songwriter from Jordan. I think the best word to describe my sound is ‘fusion’. Listen to my song, Dalia...that’s the best introduction to my music.
Yara is your new track. Can you reveal the story behind the song?
Yara was written very quickly.
I went into the studio with the verse and melody and, within an hour, we had written the whole song and completed the demo in the same session. Sonically, it’s a fun song that’s very much a fusion of World sounds with different Pop and Rock elements. I wrote the song about a girl who I was in to at the time. There are all the themes of a new love interest: declaration, longing; confusion, frustration...
It follows the hugely successful, Sixteen. Was it intimidating following that song?! What has been your reaction to its success?
Sixteen was a turning point in my career. It opened doors for me and introduced me to a much broader audience. Even within the industry, people started to take notice. I guess I was more excited to follow that up than nervous. Now, when I put new music out, people are eager to take a listen.
That song looked at the refugee-crisis in the Middle East. Are the politics and social strife of the area something that compels anger and creative drive?
Injustice is aggravating - especially where youth is involved. When I wrote Sixteen; I was really affected by everything going on - and by what I was seeing on the news. I was living in America at the time and I think, being far from home and far from the region, intensified that feeling.
I was not in a headspace to write love songs….
Will there be an E.P. or album later in the year, perhaps?
Yes - a full-length album. My first one! I can’t wait to share it with everyone.
You are a Jordanian songwriter. Is there a lot of good new music in the country? How much of the music scene is comprised of Western sounds?
Sure; there’s good music. It’s not necessarily at the forefront, though. It’s tough to be a musician in Jordan. There’s still not a fully-formed industry. Hopefully, I can be one of the people who helps change that.
How much of the scene is comprised of Western music? Very little.
I hear hints of Peter Gabriel in your music. Which artists influence your own sounds?
I love Peter Gabriel!
The list is so long and varied: The Police, Cheb Khaled; Sayyid Darwish, Cat Stevens...to name a few.
Can you each remember the first album you ever bought?
No; but I can remember some of the very first records I listened too - they were my dad’s. Like, for example, 1, 2, 3 Soleil (Live à Bercy) by Khaled, Faudel and Rachid Taha.
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
Yes! I can’t wait. We’ll start touring early-summer. We’re doing a mixture of festival dates as well as headlining shows - and I’ll also be the opening act at a couple of shows.
Do you reckon you’ll come to the U.K. and play? Do you listen to a lot of British music?
Yes. We’ll be playing in London in June! I’m very excited. I’ve never played the U.K. before.
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
I hope, just, to be able to be on stage and share my music with the world...and have a good time doing it.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
There are so many. Most of them are (of) memories on stage or preparing for a show. I love performing live and putting together a show. I also have so many great memories traveling the world in order to perform or promote my music. That’s one of the blessings of this job: it takes you around the world and you get to experience so much.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
This is a brutal industry and, so, be honest with yourself. Refine your craft and surround yourself with people you can trust - and who give you positive energy and tell you the truth.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Yes, I do. I think it’s important.
At the end of 2016, I was completely spent because it had been, like, three years of non-stop work. So; I took some time off and recharged. I unwind by doing nothing! Just hanging out with friends…
Traveling anywhere there’s a beach.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds) - Peter Gabriel