Dear patrons, another bonus for your eyes only! Here is the full interview I did with A-Wa’s founder, Tair Haim. I was so emotional from her answers! Enjoy, Loolwa

1. How were women in your family invited to participate, or shut out of participation, in religious Jewish life in Yemen, and in the Yemenite community of Israel – in terms of song, prayer, and otherwise?

Jewish women in Yemen had a cultural and spiritual world of their own, as they were not allowed to attend the religious ceremonies of the men at the synagogue.  They were also illiterate, so they created the folklore, secular folk songs and folk tales, in the local Yemeni Arabic language and passed it down as an oral tradition from generation to generation.

2. How does your original musical composition and public performance either continue, or challenge, the woman’s role – in your family and community, both historically and today?

Yemenite women’s poetry has been passed down as an oral tradition from one woman to another for generations, therefore, it is a very flexible material that allows every woman an outlet for her feelings towards men and society.  Over the years, each woman changed some of the melodies and added new verses according to her time and personal story and so the folklore was created, changed and rolled over the years, until the Yemenite Jews immigrated to Israel in the late 1940s and began the process of recording and preserving these materials.

By performing Yemenite folk songs and updating them according to our time, we are continuing this beautiful tradition in our own way.  In A-WA we also write original music in the spirit of Yemenite women’s poetry: we use the original dialect spoken by our grandparents, we use traditional Yemenite rhythms and we write very feminine and poetic lyrics and melodies that deal with social matters and protest and daily life issues, like love , hope and disappointment. By doing so, we are continuing the Jewish Yemenite women’s tradition in our unique way.

3. How do you experience the relationship between the following?

I feel like these elements you’ve mentioned are all connected as one in my creation in A-WA and in my solo project as Tair. When I create music, I’m as a tool that’s connected to the divine creation and God. All the melodies and lyrics are coming from a higher place through me and express my unique voice (in a way they also make the voices of my ancestors).

The style has always a Yemenite flavour, inspired by my Yemenite heritage, but it also incorporates elements of Western music I grew up on such as hip hop beats, Jazz harmonies and more. That’s how our music in A-WA creates a bridge between generations, between the old and the new and connects the Eastern and Western cultures. I see myself as a story teller and as someone who brings people together and I love spreading hope and love through powerful messages.

4. How, if at all, were you inspired or influenced by Ofra Haza?

We grew up listening to the great music of Ofra Haza, who sang and performed both the Jewish Yemenite men’s music and women’s music and of course her original music. We were inspired a lot by her mix of Yemenite music with 80s and 90s beats and we were also influenced by her beautiful and captivating appearance that combines traditional Yemenite outfits with a modern twist. A-WA’s music is also a mix of electronic beats and Yemenite music with an up to date production and we also love to create amazing looks by mixing street and hip hop fashion with Yemenite elements such as traditinal galabiyas and embroidery, Yemenite silver and gold jewelry and more. In a sense, Ofra Haza had had paved the way to the Yemenite music in the the world and influanced all young musicians that came afterwards. She showed us what’s possible by being genuin and authentic and unique and for that I’m forever thankful to her and love and respect her work.

5. What is the most important way you hope A-Wa music contributes to Jewish identity and community, in particular, for girls and women?

The most important way I hope A-WA’s music contributes to Jewish identity and community, is in knowing where we came from in order to know where we’re going as people, as society and as part of humanity. The fact that Jewish people are coming from all over the world and Israel is a beautiful melting pot should help teach us about how we’re all connected and we should respect and accept the uniqueness and differences as well as the similarities. It should help us unite and heal all humanity. A-WA’s music is a great platform for connecting people from all over the world. Also it’s a great empowerment for girls and women to feel beautiful and comfortable in their own skin, accepting who they are in every hat, as a partner, as a mother, as a humen being on this planet. I hope that women will see the beauty in their mixed identities and feel eqweal to men and continue to fight for our rights everywhere. As women we have a history of opression in socity, so I hope that our music will help more and more women wake up to their true power and express their honest feelings and creations unapologetically and let their unique voice be heard in every opportunity.