|Birth name||Erez Safar|
May 2, 1979 |
San Diego, CA
|Genres||Dancehall, hip hop, pop, Middle Eastern|
|Instruments||Ableton, keys, synths, drums, turntables, guitar|
Dreams In Static
TJ Di Hitmaker
Diwon (pronounced dee-wan) is a Brooklyn-based American DJ, producer and songwriter. Under his legal name, Erez Safar, he serves as CEO of Bancs, an American independent hip hop and dance record label, and Shemspeed, a record label and promotional agency operating in conjunction with its sister label, Modular Moods.
Safar, an Orthodox Jew, is the son of an American Jewish father and Yemenite Jewish mother. He great up listening to Mizrahi and Yemenite music. In 2003, he graduated from the University of Maryland, and moved to Brooklyn later that year.
Safar’s career in music began at the University of Maryland when he founded Juez, a breakbeat klezmer jazz quartet in which he played drums. That year, he also began performing under the moniker DJ Handler, spinning a blend of Hip hop, Afro beat and Arabic music. In 2004, Juez released their lone album, Shemspeed Alt Schule, on Modular Moods, an independent record label founded by Safar.
In 2007, Safar was named to The Forward 50, an annual list of the world’s most influential Jews, as chosen by the editors of The Forward. He was recognized for his work as DJ Handler, for heading Modular Moods, for founding and running the Sephardic Music Festival, and for that year’s formation of Shemspeed. That same year, in a cover story on DJ Handler, The Jerusalem Post called him “one of the top visionaries of young Jewish cool’s celebrated vanguard.”
Sephardic Music Festival
In an effort to introduce Sephardic music to a greater audience, Safar launched the Sephardic Music Festival in 2005. The seven-day festival takes place annually in December around Hanukkah at venues across New York City. The New York Times described the festival as having an "eclectic lineup of traditional and contemporary artists, including many dedicated to fusing disparate sounds or bridging new and old." Shemspeed has released two compilation albums, Sephardic Music Festival, Vol. 1 (2010) and Sephardic Music Festival, Vol. 2 (2012), featuring Middle Eastern-tinged tracks from a variety of acclaimed Jewish artists, including Matisyahu, Pharaoh's Daughter, DeScribe, Moshav and Sarah Aroeste.
Change of name
2008 saw Safar change his stage-name from DJ Handler to Diwon, a name inspired by the Yemenite book. (The diwan has meaning as a book of songs in Persian and Urdu.) "DJ Handler I started before I became a DJ, and I never felt like it was me — it never really fit," Safar said of the switch. "Making Yemenite music under the name ‘Handler’ sounded kind of absurd… and not in a good way."
In 2009, Diwon worked with Texas guitarist Dugans to form Dreams In Static, which released an instrumental LP, Serene Poetic, on February 2, 2010. The Forward wrote that the album "occupies an otherworldly, post-rock, electro-instrumental universe." DJBooth.net has called Diwon a "buzzmaking beatsmith" in reference to his collaboration with Kyle Rapps, the mixtape Tyrone Gosling, inspired by the 2011 Ryan Gosling film Drive.
In January 2010, Diwon designed and began selling a keffiyeh through Shemspeed that he coined the "Israli keffiyeh". It featured "blue embroidered Stars of David" and the slogan "Am Israeli Chai" ("The Nation of Israel Lives") sewn into it. The design caused a small amount of controversy, because it was seen as "inappropriate for Jews to use it as a pro-Israel symbol", but Diwon explained that since there are multiple kinds of keffiyeh that are used for a number of different political symbols, he wanted it to be "just one more interpretation of a scarf worn by our brothers for thousands of years".
Diwon’s beats blend the musical traditions of his mother’s family, whose roots lie in Yemen, with modern electro hip-hop. His live sets include a diverse mix of singers and live musicians. He has performed with Lou Reed, Anthony Coleman, Matisyahu, DJ Spooky and Idan Raichel, among others.
Early on, Diwon was looking to "create something with a Jewish type of music which is either original drawing on traditional elements or new arrangements of older, traditional music," but his music now leans more toward house dancehall, hip hop and pop. He has termed his music style post-hip-hop, which is described as a mixture of "Arab and Middle Eastern sounds of Yemenite music with electronic dancehall tracks".
- Juez - Shemspeed Alt Schule (2004) (as Erez, playing drums)
- Benyamin Brody, Diwon & Dugans - Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) (2009)
- Dreams In Static (Diwon and Dugans) - Serene Poetic (2010)
- Y-Love - This Is Babylon (2008) (Executive Producer)
- Y-Love & Yuri Lane - Count It (Sefira) (2009)
- DeScribe & Y-Love - The Change EP (2009)
- Shemspeed MCs (DeScribe, Y-Love, Kosha Dillz & Eprhyme) vs. Electro Morocco - "Boom Selecta" (single) (2010)
- Y-Love - See Me - EP (2011)
- Lipa Schmeltzer & DeScribe - "Acharon Acharon, Chaviv (Diwon Remix)" (single) (2011)
- Y-Love & Tj Di Hitmaker featuring Andy Milonakis - "The Takeover" (single) (2011)
- Diwon featuring Y-Love & Sarah Aroeste - "Gonna Light" (single) (2012)
- Y-Love featuring Onili - "Focus on the Flair" (single) (2012)
- Rarities & Remixes
- The Beat Guide to Yiddish
- Sabra Sessions Volume 1
- I Heart Mixtape
- Tyrone Gosling (with Kyle Rapps)
- Honey Dijon (with Kyle Rapps & Y-Love)
- Katherine Boyle (May 4, 2012). "D.C. Jewish Music Festival has hip-hop flavor in its 13th year". Washington Post. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
- Ruth Eglash (January 29, 2010). "Heads up! It’s the new ‘Israeli keffiyeh’". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
- Tad Hendrickson, "Bringing Out Sephardic Music's New Voices," Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2012.
- Arie Hasit, "By any other name," Jerusalem Post, June 12, 2008.
- Mordechai Shinefield, "Music Site Celebrates Launch," The Forward, October 9, 2007. Accessed May 5, 2012.
- "Forward 50, 2007," The Forward. Retrieved November 14, 2011.
- Ben Jacobson (October 19, 2007). "Young and Jewish on the Web". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
- Mordechai Shinefield, "Monday Music: Sephardic Music Takes On the Club Scene," The Forward, January 17, 2011.
- "Heard & Scene: Festival Shines Spotlight on Sephardic Culture," The Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2010.
- Amanda Petrusich, "Sounds of Diaspora, Updated," The New York Times, December 15, 2011.
- Staff writer (November 22, 2010). "Sephardic Sounds". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved May 5, 2012 (subscription required).
- Matthue Roth, "Diwon is to Yemenite music as Pharrell is to Gwen," Jewcy, March 13, 2008.
- Ezra Glinter, "Shemspeed Albums from Bands That Start with 'D'," The Forward, February 5, 2010.
- "Kyle Rapps - Night Call," DJBooth.net, January 2012.
- Craig Nelson (February 2, 2010). "'Star of David' keffiyehs set to create next culture conflict". The National. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
- "Y-Love and Diwon," Spertus.edu, January 8, 2009. Retrieved May 6, 2012.