On February 24, the Israeli Broadcasting Authority will stage the first of three semi-finals for Kdam 2013—Israel’s national selection for Eurovision. Among the 30 contenders is Bezalel, a singer who rose to prominence throughout the Middle East after his song “Tunisia” become an anthem of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution. It went on to make waves on radio and TV stations throughout the region—even appearing on Al Jazeera and on Palestinian TV.
But Bezalel is not a one-hit wonder. The ongoing conflict in Syria prompted him to extend his message of peace. For Kdam 2013 he’s penned a song called “NO WAR” which, as you can guess, calls on combatants to put down their arms. He recently spoke with wiwibloggs about his song and his decision to compete for a spot at Eurovision. Here’s what he had to say.
Could you tell us about the message of your song “NO WAR” and what inspired it?
“NO WAR” is a love song. I feel it’s my best song to date. Not because it has the best melody or best lyrics, or because I hit high notes or stuff like that. “NO WAR” is my best song to date ’cause it’s the most sincere and brave song I’ve ever put out and it describes a love story in an impossible world of the Middle East where loving a person from the other side of the borderline can have tremendous implications.
Do you remember the moment when you decided to write “NO WAR”?
I have to be honest about this and I’m sorry in advance if someone will get offended. I was at a friend’s house for a Friday dinner in Jaffo. The T.V. was on and the 8 o’clock evening news started. They did a special report on the turmoil in Syria and showed footage of families that got killed by the Syrian army and people that lost everything only because they wanted to have freedom. Only when I came back home did I digest what I saw. I felt the urge burning in me to do something for people who have no voice. I wanted to cry, but my tears are not going to help them, so I asked guidance to help through my music.
A few weeks later I woke up in the middle of the night at 4 AM. I heard the song “NO WAR” in my head. I barely have a voice at this hour, but I sang it to myself, as if the whole song was installed to my head. I was so moved.
I got up from bed and recorded the acappella to my cell phone, knowing this song will speak out from the voiceless people who still believe in peace, love and freedom.
How long did it take you to write the song? Could you describe its sound?
Well, a couple of minutes. That same day I had a production meeting to start developing the sound around the lyrics and melody. I know that I wanted it to sound very big yet simple at the same time. I know I wanted to hear church bells and violins. I wanted a different sound in a pop song. I think we were able to nail it.
Is there a sentence or part of the lyrics that you can share with us? Perhaps an important line?
I can only say that the lyrics “NO WAR” are taken from the chorus line. At this point I can’t say anything else as the regulations for the Eurovision in Israel are very very tight.
Do you anticipate that your song will be controversial?
Only among those who want war!
Your song “Tunisia” became the anthem of the revolution there. How did this make you feel when you learned this? Were you surprised an Arab country would embrace a song by an Israeli?
I was so proud of myself. It was an amazing feeling to get messages to my Facebook page from Tunisians who know I am Israeli and know I am Jewish and still write me that they loved the song and that they hope someday to see me in a concert in Tunisia. Who the hell says that music has no power? I guess it was a politician! LOL.
Anyway, the world became all of the sudden an amazing place with no boundaries when I received an invitation to perform in Tunisia last summer. Think about it for just a second: One world where everybody is in peace. I f*cking love this!
Listen to “Tunisia”:
Has the song “Tunisia” had a big impact on your career?
I must say that it had a HUGE impact on my life. First and foremost I connected with myself thank to that song. Realize that my parents moved to Israel from Tunisia. As an Israeli kid I was ashamed of them in a way, because they had and still have this Arabic attitude, attire and mentality and Israel is quite modern. I wanted to be modern. I wanted to be “free” of any background. I wanted America, as they say. It took me 30 years to realize that without your roots you got nothing. So the song “Tunisia” connected me to who I am and as a result it connected to a whole nation that longed for freedom. Real freedom.
Why did you want to compete in Eurovision this year?
“NO WAR” in the Eurovision this year is like a bride under alter. I wanna share “NO WAR” with the world, especially now and in the amazing continent of Europe as I feel the Eurovision is the best stage in the world for the song’s message. The only question is: will Israel marry me?
Do you have a message for Israelis who will be watching Kdam 2013?
Choose from your hearts. And remember: it’s our only chance to raise, through music, a flag of peace to the world from Israel and the Middle East.
What is your favorite Israeli song that has competed at Eurovision?
Just one favourite? Tell you what, I give you two of my most favourite. The first is “Chai” (“Alive”) from 1983 by the beloved Ofra Haza R.I.P. And I also love ” Hallelujah” from 1979, the very same year I was born. The song ended up winning the Eurovision that year. Let’s hope “NO WAR” will have its own Hallelujah!
Besides Israel, are there any Eurovision songs from previous years that you love most?
I loved Loreen last year. She gave a simple yet powerful performance. Can’t wait to meet her and maybe collaborate.
Are you moved by Bezalel’s story? If you want to support him in his effort to win Kdam 2013 then you can join his official Facebook page or purchase his debut album “Forbidden Love” on iTunes. Some of you might want to take a cue from Bezalel’s fans and make a video of support, like this one from Michael in the U.S.A.: