By Kevin Madigan
A band whose musicians come from three countries and religions will take the stage at the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival’s Main Event on March 21.
Based in Israel, Diwan Saz has Jews, Muslims and Christians among its rotating members. Yochai Barak, the band’s musical director, said the creation of this unusual ensemble came about quite naturally.
“We first got together about 10 years ago for a session to play some music,” he said. “Gradually it became more and more serious. After a few years more people joined us. We now have a rabbi from Jerusalem and other musicians who live in Turkey and Iran.”
The band also features Muhammad Gadir, a 14-year-old Bedouin singer famous for winning an Arabic Idol contest, and has vocalists singing in Hebrew, Farsi, Arabic and Turkish.
Indeed, the band’s name reflects what it does. “Diwan is people coming together to be one, a gathering. Formal or informal, religious or not,” Barak said. “If you sit in a living room with friends, it’s also called diwan.”
Saz means two things: It’s a stringed instrument from Turkey, similar to a lute, but also can mean the playing of musical instruments in general.
“One of the nice things about the Turkish tradition is that many people play together — 40, 50 people sometimes. It’s very beautiful,” Barak said.
The amalgamation of diverse backgrounds and influences has yielded a fascinating blend of sound. “There’s a musical dialogue always between us,” Barak said. “It’s the way we are and the way we connect. It’s more than a show. The audience participates, becomes one. We’re looking forward to coming.”
“They make amazing music. They’re really connecting,” Israeli singer Yael Deckelbaum said about Diwan Saz. She will share top billing at the Main Event at Variety Playhouse.
Diwan Saz is also taking part in an interfaith dialogue March 22 at the Emory Center for Ethics. “We believe in a higher level of communication. It’s about different points of view,” Barak said. “The group is excited to be part of this dialogue, to show the audience different possibilities of communication. We’re proud and honored to share it.”