Palestinian Producer and Trip-Hop Artist, Moody Kablawi, Is Mixing His Arab Roots With The Sound Of Berlin
Photography & Interview: Bethany Burgoyne
Arab Palestinian musician, Moody Kablawi, has been working his way through the music scene since his early teens. Starting with writing poems, sitting them on top of beats and creating his own sound in rap, a shift occurred, bringing this 24-year-old musician into a more colourful world of sound and music production.
Growing up in Haifa, Moody explains the beginning of his journey into music “I was inspired by the Arabic rap of the early 2000s being released by artists such as DAM and NWR. I saw how they used rap as a peaceful tool for expression. Our first struggle as a Palestinian community is a political one and I understood more about this through listening to these artists music.” After writing his first track which focused on the war in Gaza, Moody explained how “there are also our personal issues to focus on so I wrote more lyrics and found further ways to express myself. I released my first EP in 2010, aged 15 - it was purely rapping from beats that I found from people and downloaded from the internet”.
Moody went on to explore his voice further, questioning what he was rapping about and growing as a musician. “I joined bands and projects and focused on the mental occupation we are dealing with being Palestinian living in Israel. From there I performed for five years, learning more instruments and exploring what music is for me.” By the age of 22, Moody had performed in Canada, the US, across various countries in Europe as well as regions within the Middle East.
Questioning what led to his ambitious and dedicated attitude takes Moody back to his childhood and to the therapeutic outlet it offered him. “Music gave me the hope that I didn’t find in my reality. As a child growing up with nystagmus (an eye disease effecting the vision) and without my father for a large part of my teenage years (as he was in jail), I learnt how to be independent financially. I learnt about the system and the country and the realities of life in a pretty tough way, which taught me a lot. Music is my passion, and if I say that without explaining my backstory, it sounds cliché, but music really is my therapy”.
Over the years, Moody stepped further away from the world of rap and started experimenting with producing sounds and beats. A raw trip-hop, jazz fusion lay the foundations of his second album and when asking if all the travelling had shaped his music, Moody is quick to name two cities which have left their mark. “Bristol and Berlin. They have both influenced me greatly. Bristol because it’s the core of dubstep, the culture of the streets, the dirty sounds seemed familiar to the underground scene of Ramallah (in the West Bank); but in Bristol it’s musically tighter with less rapping, I found this sound more interesting to me. And Berlin because I’m in love with techno. It’s not just the hardcore sound but the melodic techno, it can take a lot of other genres like jazz and mix them together, it’s similar to hip-hop in that way.”
The draw of Berlin’s music scene resulted in Moody relocating there earlier this year to set up his studio. A decision which may not have happened if it hadn’t been for the birth of the Underground Palestinian Music scene. Moody explains that “Before the Haifa scene, there wasn’t much free space to be whatever character you wanted to be, as a human, as a status within community. I feel Haifa gave people a place to express themselves in whatever way they wanted, we were given another option – we have our own space, our own bar, our own people to talk Arabic to. Starting with cultural exhibitions and underground parties, it’s now grown to having creative spaces and studios. It’s something new that’s never been before and it’s gathering momentum. When you see someone do something, you become inspired”.
Deciding to move away from his home country has liberated Moody to explore his music further. “Having the space helped me know how I am able to be open to anything that comes to mind”. One of those intuitive evolutions has been the use of English in his lyrics, allowing a wider audience to engage in his work. “I’m starting to flow in English and it’s nice, I have a different perspective towards the language with an Arabic diction, flowing and rhyming in an Arabian way but it’s in English. It’s a new thing”.
And a new thing is exactly what this musician seems to represent. Fearlessly playing with different genres and confidently producing his own sound, Moody’s knowledge is set to shake up the music scene.
Photography & Interview by: Bethany Burgoyne