Creeping success

Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood makes album with Israel’s Dudu Tassa

Features Middle East artists including Palestinian singer Freteikh, Egyptian artist Ahmed Doma, Morocco’s Mohssine Salaheddine; pair say it doesn’t include political statements

Dudu Tassa (L) and Jonny Greenwood perform in Binyamina, July 20, 2021. (Screen grab via YouTube; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Dudu Tassa (L) and Jonny Greenwood perform in Binyamina, July 20, 2021. (Screen grab via YouTube; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

JTA — Jonny Greenwood, the guitarist of the acclaimed band Radiohead and an Oscar-nominated composer, has made an album with Israeli rock musician Dudu Tassa.

“Jarak Qaribak,” or “Your Neighbor is Your Friend” in Arabic, will be released through World Circuit Records on June 9 and features artists from throughout the Middle East, including Palestinian singer Freteikh, Egyptian singer Ahmed Doma and Moroccan singer Mohssine Salaheddine.

Greenwood, who is married to Israeli visual artist Sharona Katan, has recorded guitar on albums by Tassa and fellow Israeli Shye Ben Tzur before, and both opened for Radiohead on some tour dates in 2017.

Tassa, born to a Mizrahi family from Iraq and Kuwait, has released several albums, including some with Dudu Tassa and the Kuwaitis, a band that records contemporary renditions of old Iraqi and Kuwaiti songs. He explained in notes accompanying the first song released from the album with Greenwood that each featured singer sang on a track about a country other than their own.

“Israel is a small country between all those countries, so we’re very influenced by those cultures and by that music,” he said. “And a lot of us in Israel – like my family – are descended from people who came here from elsewhere in the Middle East, so everything gets mixed up.”

The pair added that they didn’t want the album to include any political statements.

“We didn’t want to make out that we’re making any political point,” Greenwood said, “but I do understand that as soon as you do anything in that part of the world it becomes political, even if it’s just artistic. Actually, possibly especially if it’s artistic.”

Radiohead, who have won several Grammy Awards and sold millions of records since the 1990s, have been the targets of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, especially in the lead-up to their 2017 concert in Tel Aviv. In response, singer Thom Yorke called BDS protesters “offensive” and “patronizing,” adding that, “The person who knows most about these things is Jonny [Greenwood].”

Katan once told Israeli paper Yediot Ahronot that she and Greenwood keep a mezuzah in their home and celebrate Jewish holidays and an occasional Shabbat.

Greenwood and Tassa’s album was produced by Nigel Godrich, the longtime Radiohead producer sometimes referred to as the sixth member of the band.

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