Erez Safar

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Erez Safar
Background information
Also known asDiwon, h2the
BornSan Diego, CA
GenresDancehall, Jewish hip hop, pop, Middle Eastern
InstrumentsAbleton, keys, synths, drums, turntables, guitar
Years active2001–present
Associated actsY-Love
Dreams In Static
TJ Di Hitmaker
Kosha Dillz
Kyle Rapps

Erez Safar is an American DJ, producer and songwriter who records under the names Diwon and h2the. He serves as CEO of Bancs Media, an American production company specializing in music and video production; Studio Bancs, a creative art space; and Shemspeed, a record label and promotional agency. He is also the founder and director of the Sephardic Music Festival, as well as Gallery 38 in Los Angeles.

Early life and education[edit]

Safar, an Orthodox Jew,[1] is the son of an American Jewish father and Yemenite Jewish mother.[2] He grew up listening to Mizrahi and Yemenite music.[3] In 2003, he graduated from the University of Maryland, and moved to Brooklyn later that year.[1]


Early career[edit]

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.[4] That year, he also began performing under the moniker DJ Handler, spinning a blend of Hip hop, Afro beat and Arabic music.[4] In 2004, Juez released their lone album, Shemspeed Alt Schule, on Modular Moods, an independent record label founded by Safar.[5]

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.[5][6] 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.”[7]

Sephardic Music Festival[edit]

In an effort to introduce Sephardic music to a greater audience, Safar launched the Sephardic Music Festival in 2005.[8] The seven-day festival takes place annually in December around Hanukkah at venues across New York City.[3][9] 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."[10] 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.[3][11]

Diwon performs in Melbourne in 2009.

Dreams In Static, Bonhom, h2the and solo work[edit]

In 2008, Safar changed 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.)[4] "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."[12] Diwon's music combines traditional Yemeni elements with modern electro hip-hop.[4][1]

In 2009, Diwon worked with New York-based 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."[13] In 2014, after expanding to include vocalist Akie Bermiss,[14] Dreams In Static released the single "You're On Your Own". Diwon produced the music video. The band plans to release a new album later in 2014.[15] 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.[16] In 2013, Diwon released his debut album, New Game, along with the album's first single, "Games That We Play" featuring Jesse Scott and Barney Bones.[17] Also that year, his Bancs Media released the compilation Endless Summer, with tracks from artists including RZA, Kosha Dillz, Kool G Rap and others.[18] On August 20, 2014, he released the instrumental album Pre-Game.[19][20]

Diwon and James Coleman make up the pop group Bonhom. They released the single "Live for Now" in 2013.[21]

In 2016, Diwon started making '80s-style synth music under the name h2the. The h2the album Beat Tape was released in 2017 on cassette tape.[22]

Israeli keffiyeh[edit]

In January 2010, Diwon began selling a keffiyeh through Shemspeed that he coined the "Israeli 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".[2][23]

Art gallery[edit]

Safar relocated to Los Angeles in 2012. He and Badir McCleary founded Gallery 38 in Los Angeles's West Adams neighborhood in 2015.[22][24]



  • Juez - Shemspeed Alt Schule (2004) (as Erez, playing drums)
  • Benyamin Brody, Diwon & Dugans - Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) (2009)
  • Dreams In Static - Serene Poetic (2010)
  • Diwon - New Game (2013)
  • Diwon - Pre Game (2014)
  • h2the - Beat Tape (2017)


  • Diwon featuring Y-Love & Sarah Aroeste - "Gonna Light" (2012)
  • Bonhom - "Live for Now" (2013)
  • Diwon featuring Jesse Scott and Barney Bones - "Games That We Play" (2013)
  • Dreams In Static - "You're On Your Own" (2014)


  • Endless Summer (2013)


  • Rarities & Remixes
  • The Beat Guide to Yiddish
  • Sabra Sessions Volume 1
  • I Heart Mixtape
  • Psychadeliciwon
  • Chulo
  • Tyrone Gosling (with Kyle Rapps)
  • Honey Dijon (with Kyle Rapps & Y-Love)

As producer[edit]

  • 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)
  • Y-Love featuring Onili - "Focus on the Flair" (single) (2012)


  1. ^ a b c Katherine Boyle (May 4, 2012). "D.C. Jewish Music Festival has hip-hop flavor in its 13th year". Washington Post. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Ruth Eglash (January 29, 2010). "Heads up! It's the new 'Israeli keffiyeh'". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c Tad Hendrickson, "Bringing Out Sephardic Music's New Voices," Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d Arie Hasit, "By any other name," Jerusalem Post, June 12, 2008.
  5. ^ a b Mordechai Shinefield, "Music Site Celebrates Launch," The Forward, October 9, 2007. Accessed May 5, 2012.
  6. ^ "Forward 50, 2007," The Forward. Retrieved November 14, 2011.
  7. ^ Ben Jacobson (October 19, 2007). "Young and Jewish on the Web". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  8. ^ Mordechai Shinefield, "Monday Music: Sephardic Music Takes On the Club Scene," The Forward, January 17, 2011.
  9. ^ "Heard & Scene: Festival Shines Spotlight on Sephardic Culture," Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2010.
  10. ^ Amanda Petrusich, "Sounds of Diaspora, Updated," New York Times, December 15, 2011.
  11. ^ Staff writer (November 22, 2010). "Sephardic Sounds". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved May 5, 2012. (Subscription required (help)).
  12. ^ Matthue Roth, "Diwon is to Yemenite music as Pharrell is to Gwen," Jewcy, March 13, 2008.
  13. ^ Ezra Glinter, "Shemspeed Albums from Bands That Start with 'D'," The Forward, February 5, 2010.
  14. ^ Stephanie Amadeus, "Dreams in Static: Taking on modern funk and soul," The Indie SD, March 27, 2014.
  15. ^ Eric R. Danton, "Dreams In Static Transcend Heartache In ‘You’re On Your Own’," Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2014.
  16. ^ "Kyle Rapps - Night Call,", January 2012.
  17. ^ Nick Vukorepa, "Diwon - 'Games That We Play' (Feat. Barney Bones & Jesse Scott)," Earmilk, August 20, 2013.
  18. ^ Lauren Schwartzberg, "Exclusive Playlist: Bancs Media - Endless Summer," RESPECT., October 1, 2013.
  19. ^ "Album Review: 'Pre-Game' by Diwon," Indie Rap Blog, August 23, 2014.
  20. ^ "Album Review: Diwon – Pre-Game (Hi-fidelity Instrumentals)," Underground Hip Hop Blog, September 11, 2014.
  21. ^ "Bonhom Lives for Now!" Archived December 20, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. URB, January 13, 2013.
  22. ^ a b Madison Margolin, "The Orthodox mastermind behind 'Jewish cool'," Times of Israel, April 3, 2017.
  23. ^ Craig Nelson (February 2, 2010). "'Star of David' keffiyehs set to create next culture conflict". The National. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  24. ^ Teka-Lark Fleming, "Can This New Gallery Become the Center of the West Adams Art Scene?" LA Weekly, April 20, 2015.

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