Jaafar On His Debut Album And New Single ‘Sixteen’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO]
Jaafar, an English-speaking Jordanian artist, is ready to break out in America with his forthcoming debut album that features hit singles “Oasis” and “Sixteen.”
Jaafar first developed an interest in music as a small child after singing an Arabic song during a school production. In college, Jaafar started to take his music more seriously, and ended up in recording studios and playing at festivals. But it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that Jaafar really started to find his sound.
“I really started paying attention to lyrics and writing about things that were on my mind, things that were affecting the world,” Jaafar told uInterview in an exclusive interview. “So [“Sixteen”] was a response to the refugee situation around the world, to kids dying all over the world because of the different wars we have going on, just conflict within the countries.”
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Another track Jaafar’s currently writing, “Down the River,” features a similar theme of struggle and degradation, but comes with a message of hope.
“It’s a reaction to pop culture today, to the world we’re living in, and so the lyrics say, ‘Down the river we go, down the river we go, fast to a wasteland of souls,'” Jaafar explained to uInterview. “That’s the kind of direction I think we’re heading in, and it continues by saying, ‘But if we swim upstream before we’re lost at sea there may yet be a better tomorrow.’ So I always try to put a little bit of hope in the songs.”
As for the sound Jaafar has embraced in his music, it’s a fusion of influences that includes the Middle Eastern music he grew up with and the Western music he’s been exposed to over the years. There’s no doubt that he’s created a thoroughly unique sound, and watering it down to make it more mainstream for U.S. audiences isn’t something he’s willing to do.
“I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing because I finally feel like I’ve found my sound,” Jaafar said. “I really wanted to write music that was personal, but at the same time had the stamp that when people heard it they would know it was me…. I did a lot of searching and that was really what took me back to my Middle Eastern roots and Middle Eastern music was always my first love.”
Jafaar hopes that his music will speak for itself and that after his album comes out next year, he’ll tour across the Middle East and in America and get his big break stateside.
“I mean the U.S. is a great place to break through if you want to have an international career,” said Jaafar. “And that’s the goal.”
That single is the second song I wrote for this album, actually. I started writing this album just under two years ago, after I came back from playing a festival in Jordan, and when I played that festival I’d realized that I really wasn’t connecting to a lot of my older songs anymore, and I think one of the reasons for that were the lyrics. I wasn’t really paying attention to lyrics too much. Before when I used to write, it was all about melody and the music and that’s fine because it helped me grow as a songwriter, a musician at the time. But, after the fact I wasn’t really connected to the music anymore, so I really started paying attention to lyrics and writing about things that were on my mind, things that were affecting the world. So this was a response to the refugee situation around the world, to kids dying all over the world because of the different wars we have going on, just conflict within the countries. So that was what “Sixteen” was about.
Musically, I started with the hook of the song, which is actually the verse from another song I had written, and then when I took it into the studio the producers suggested we make that song – that hook – the chorus, and we rearranged the song and “Sixteen” was born.
I first got into music, well, I used to sing at school, in kindergarten, and I did like a school production, and I sang an Arabic song there and then I was hooked ever since then.
My sound fuses Middle Eastern music with Western pop and rock. I grew up listening to Middle Eastern music like Jordan and Folk or Rai music, which comes from Algeria, and then I was always following a Rai artist called Cheb Mami, who then did a duet with Sting’s “Desert Rose.” So, after I heard that song I discovered Sting, and I discovered The Beatles and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – all these different bands that I listened to after that.
After I graduated high school was probably the first time. Actually, it wasn’t the first time, but it was when I started really going to the studio on a regular basis and recording demos, and I started recording an album when I was around, I’d say 21. They never sold a lot of tape, but I did release a single off that album called “You Got me Good” in Jordan, which was extremely successful. So after that, I was playing festivals and playing shows off of one single, so I was playing music that no one had heard except that single and a bunch of covers.
Yes, definitely. The album, there’s about nine songs on the album. I’m not sure of the exact number, but that’s what we have for right now, and all of the songs talk about either my journey or reactions to things that are going on in the world.
We have a type of song called “Down The River,” which this is the one I’m finishing up right now, so that’s why I chose to talk about it and it’s kinda just about the deterioration of society. And it’s a reaction to pop culture today, to the world we’re living in, and so the lyrics say, “Down the river we go, down the river we go, fast to a wasteland of souls.” That’s the kind of direction I think we’re heading in, and it continues by saying, “But if we swim upstream before we’re lost at sea there may yet be a better tomorrow.” So I always try to put a little bit of hope in the songs because I don’t want them to be just heavy heavy songs.
I went to University in the U.S., so I’ve been here for about five years now. I graduated last summer, and I’ve been recording ever since then. I started recording this album while I was still at school actually. The hope is definitely to be able to work with some great people in the business and on the music side as well. So just to continue growing my career here in the U.S. I mean the U.S. is a great place to break through if you want to have an international career, and that’s the goal.
I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing because I finally feel like I’ve found my sound. After I played the festival in Jordan, and then I took some time away from recording to write an album and to really find my sound because I really wanted to write music that was personal, but at the same time had the stamp that when people heard it they would know it was me. So I did a lot of sound searching. I feel like before this album I was writing some great pop songs, but I didn’t feel like I had my signature on it because it could be anyone’s song. So as a songwriter, at that point, I had to develop a good sense of melody and good sense of what makes a song a good pop song. But, I hadn’t quite found my sound. So I did a lot of searching and that was really what took me back to my Middle Eastern roots and Middle Eastern music was always my first love, so it was really a natural thing for me to infuse both of them and all of these songs have that fusion element.
I would definitely go back, I’m actually going back in two weeks to Jordan. I have some press to do there and then I have some recording in Istanbul. So I have recorded the album actually primarily in Miami, but I am also recording in Istanbul and in Jordan. That’s how I get that real authentic sound because I’m playing with real session musicians from that part of the world who do understand that music. So it’s not like a lot of other tracks on the radio right now, which I’m infusing the Middle Eastern thing, but a kind of cartoonish way, that’s just my opinion. But, yeah, definitely after we finish recording this album , the album should be done by the end of the year, hopefully out early next year and so my hope is to tour not only America but outside America, including the Middle East as well.
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