A-Wa – Bayti Fi Rasi

Vergangene Woche erschien Bayti Fi Rasi, das fantastische Debütalbum des jemenitisch-israelischen World-Rave-Trios A-WA. Exklusiv für Popmonitor haben TAIR, LIRON und TAGEL HAIM Kommentare zu den einzelnen Tracks ins Mikro diktiert. Hier ist das umfangreiche, fast komplett unbehauene Transkript …


‘Ya Watani’ which means ‘My Homeland’, the intro is all about – we’re using the lyrics from the song ‘Ya Watani’, which comes right after, but the vibe is a bit different. It’s like starting to tell the story, and you can hear footsteps in the sands, the journey of our great grandma and the other immigrants walking towards Israel, going south to Adhen. Walking to the camp before they were fleeing to Israel, they did a journey by foot – many people didn’t survive. You can hear something of the tiredness. Walking to freedom but also to the unknown.


It begins with our great grandmother who is saying to her homeland of Yemen, ‘smile to me for the last time before I go’.

My humble homeland, my sunburnt homeland – because in Yemen the sun is so strong that it almost burns you. So she’s saying smile at me for the last time before I leave, because her knowing that it’s going to be the last time that she’s going to see or be in Yemen.

And then we kind of bring out all the stuff that you can take with her. They left everything that they had, they were also poor, they didn’t have much they took a lot of the emotional stuff.

If you would go to a private island, you would probably take your iphone, your bag, but then she’s saying she’s taking my loneliness, her daughter, my free spirit, I’m taking the headscarf, the thorn that’s in my foot because they walked barefoot.


Mudbira means unlucky, and it’s a common phrase that our great grandmother used to say a lot – because she knew she was dealt a bad hand in life. She was a Jewish woman in a Muslim country, and women in general were treated bad – they were second hand citizens in Yemen, and then being Jewish just added another complication to that. But even the most unlucky person in the world has a corner somewhere in the world. And this is a message that we wanted to portray – to say that no matter if you start from a very bad condition or you come from a very far place or a very poor family, you can create, you are God’s child, you can create your own luck. It’s fate, and she was unlucky, and she was laughing about it, but we believe that we can create our own luck. We’re coming from a small village in Southern Israel, we didn’t know anyone in the music industry, we had to build our path and create everything.

In the song we kind of have a dialogue, as her neighbours in Yemen are asking her why she has to go, why she can’t stay.

The country’s wide but my horizons are narrow.

I need to find something else to create a better life for me and my daughter.

That’s how we felt coming from this small place, growing up in the desert in a very isolated village we wanted to see the world. Being able to speak through her voice but to identify with her and say something that we feel. She was married four times, but at that point in the timeline, when this song is happening, it’s before the third husband, she’s saying that men come and go out of my life and I laugh but my eyes cry. The first was arranged and smelt like fuel, the second pinched like an old shoe, the third – who knows?

That was the first single, and in the video we wanted to tell the story of how you change your luck. We were thinking about how do we bring three characters to present that changing luck? We have three shepherdesses in Yemen with the tall hats, which is inspired by real outfits in Yemen, the shepherdesses wear these tall hats for the circulation. But to get to my point, the change of luck is the herd is being stolen and we reclaim it back.


This means ‘Here is not Yemen’, – this is the point where she realises that the land…

The holy land, the land of wheat, of dates, of olives, there are seven fruits in the Bible that describe their richness and the prosperity of the country. We’re naming these seven fruits – symbols of the country – and repeating it in a very percussive way. When she arrived in Israel, she came into a tent camp where they put all the immigrants, and it felt so bad because they looked at her as foreign and primitive because she didn’t come from Europe – she’s not an Ashkenazi Jew, she’s a Mizrahi Jew from Yemen. So we talk about that in first person. It’s lke we’re stepping into her shoes and talking through her – “I came to you fleeing, and you saw me as primitive”, she asks “when will I have a home?” and the other refugees answer “you have a tent for now”, and she asks “at least a small shack?” and they answer “yes, with four other families” because they lived in such bad conditions for years.

They said it was going to be temporary but it was for years.

We were inspired by ‘West Side Story’, the musical, because the scene of America in that – they came to America and the white Americans were facing them and they wanted to fit in so they have this song that’s a call and response, when the character Anita is saying “I’m going to have my own washing machine!” and they’re answering “but what will you have to clean?”. It was inspired by this song. („America“, Anm. d. Red.)


When people asked why she was travelling, she said that it was because her home was in her head – she didn’t say it was in her heart, but in her head. Very logical.

It stayed with us, we think it’s very relevant to talk about with all the refugees being at the forefront of the discussions today, and her being a strong woman with the Me Too movement. She was very feminist without knowing she was – she didn’t know the term, but she was so strong and opinionated, and we ask her in the song what is a home? You tell me What is a family? You tell me. We wanted it to be like a theme song.

It’s a statement and it’s a state of mind and it felt like something that needed a march.

We asked our producer to sample a specific rhythm from a Yemeni vinyl


It means the lion, in Yemen back then they didn’t have streetlights so if you go – the changing of the guard – we found during the day it’s for people, during the night it’s for wild animals. They have lions, tigers, hardcore animals!

And one day she went to the market, bought some groceries, and lost track of time – and her daughter was at home in the house on her own. So she’s coming back from the market, it’s sunset time, dusk, the night is coming and she hears groaning noises and starts to freak out, then she sees a lion in front of her, drops the grocieries – shouting, yelling, running away. People from the village heard her and came out with torches, with fire, and saved her. It’s a true story that runs in our family. What’s the meaning of facing a lion? We thought about it, and for us it’s like facing your biggest fear. It puts you in a survival mode, and in our times when we have a lot of anxiety and are exposed to social media and stuff.

And when it happens you go into survival mode, and you’re not thinking of yourself anymore, you’re thinking of the people who love you and the people who are waiting for you – in this case, for her, it was our grandmother who was waiting for her as a child.

And we felt this should be reggae! I came into the studio…I don’t know, a jungle vibe.

At the beginning we called this track ‘the Jungle’, which became like code for us!


This means the nightingale – it’s an expression, it’s a really cool interlude in the album where it combines the end of the jungle vibe and you start hearing the voice of a man singing, and his voice is like a nightingale because it’s s beautiful like a bird. It’s a dance track and it leads to the next song…


This means daughter of the Sheikh – and this is the story of Rachel’s third husband, the first one that she really really loved that wasn’t an arranged marriage. He was really charming and had beautiful eyes, a beautiful voice, she thought she can finally have a really good family. It’s like, though, his voice is also his curse, the Sheikh’s daughter was throwing a party and she invited him to sing and then she hypnotised him and turned him against Rachel – our great grandma – and he left her. She wanted him for herself and she was the daughter of the Sheikh. The story says that he was Jewish but he never emigrated to Israel, he converted his religion to Islam – the Jewish community feels like it is a big deal when that happens. In this song, we sing in first person – oh nightingale, oh nightingale, oh sweet nightingale, shame on you, what a shame, your beautiful voice has become your curse since the day you started singing. You can hear his voice echoing the whole time, for the role of the nightingale we took a huge singer who was big in the Yemenite community, we loved his albums, but he’s not singing anymore, so we found him and asked him to come to the studio and we made it with him, it’s amazing, he recorded it and it felt perfect for this role. It’s like very a concept album like you do in hip hop or progressive rock – where there’s short tracks in between too.

The chorus says I’ve never had a love like this, nor will I in the future – all of her happiness is now in the hands of the Sheikh’s daughter. We wanted to make it very poetic.


(Hier hat die Aufnahmetechnik versagt. Wir tun unser Bestes, den Kommentar nachzureichen.)


Another interlude, it’s like a shopping list – but the opposite! A list of what she doesn’t have.

Home? None. Keys? None. Lover? None! Neither luck nor shoe – it’s a very Yemenite phrase.

A shoe symbolises something so basic, same with keys also.

I have a story about this track – after we wrote the lyrics we wanted to compose it and it’s the first demo that we made in my place, and we put it as an interlude, and it was different from what we’d composed for Mudbira, this is the original demo itself is on this track, just recorded on the iphone – it felt so simple and true.


This refers to sweeping something under the rug, covering it up.

And this is about the fourth husband, who also betrayed her. He had another woman, he stole her money, she found out about his scams. It’s a song about betrayal. It’s a rhythm that’s in 7/8…

It’s a distinct Yeminite rhythm, it’s very heavy!

We wanted it to be very cinematic, to be very atmospheric, to feel the tension and how angry she was at him for betraying her. We’re saying in this song, “all this time you had another home!”, and under the rug I smell your stinky story and you’re starting to go bald. It’s like “I’m onto you”, that’s the key word, from that you get the whole song.


This means in Yemenite ‘Candle’, it’s the original name of our grandma. When they emigrated to Israel, they asked form the government to change their names into something more Israeli and local, so her name became Shama’a. There are many women coming from Yemen where their names were originally Shama’a. Rachel named her Shama’a, a candle, because when she gave birth to her she saw her as a light for her path in the world, and that they had a mutual plan together.

She felt she didn’t have to carry this burden alone, she had a reason now. Bigamy, or polygamy, is against the law in Israel but in Yemen and some other countries it’s quite common. If a woman is talking to another man and they’re thinking she might be having a romance or an affair, they can immediately put her in a hole and throw stones on her, as they do in Iran, it’s terrible, horrible. Women don’t have the same status as men.

Anyways, we wanted to call this Shama’a as it’s dedicated to our grandma. Each of us needs to have one person who is light – it could be a son, or a daughter, or a spouse, it’s very important. A name is your destiny – my name means illuminate, so like Shama’a it’s something that is bringing light to the world, I have joy. This one has a Yemenite traditional rhythm, we love to take traditional rhythms and make them more poppy, it’s very interesting for us – this one is 6/8 and it’s the rhythm when people escort the bride down the aisle.

We came with so many different references and ideas and sounds, and our producer took these sounds and helped make the beats – then we came to the studio with the lyrics and composed the songs together with him in the studio on the spot. And this song, it goes through changes and transforms in the middle into 4/4, and becomes more funky, then becomes a bit more gospel.


This means a long road – it’s quoting from Al Asad. This is a track that another band made very cool, they tried to compose Al Asad, the lion’s song, and they created a cool version of that which sounded like a cassette – an old cassette. So they made this version, and we really liked what they created, so we said we had to put it on the album, but I heard the song having a reggae vibe, then Al Asad became the reggae, but we kept their version as an interlude here because it was so cool and unique!


It means a pillow of gold – you can see it in the vinyl booklet, it started with an old saying about death being a pillow of gold, “you can rest only when you die”, the idea that death comes as a golden pillow. And we thought wow, so we wanted to use it, it feels like a requiem.

We used a statement from Rachel for this – she said that one day she was sitting in the sun, she came to visit her daughter, our grandmother, in a small town in Israel, and she realises that she’s about to be taken away. Our uncle asked her why she was sitting out in the sun, so she says “this is my last repose in the sun”, she knew that the neighbour would die and that she would die a week after him, and that the devil was coming with his knife and wanted somewhere to clean the knife so keep away any open water – very dark! But what great material for a song. We started the song from “this is my last repose in the sun, my thoughts are evacuating”, as though the thoughts are fading away. And everything is about to change. It’s my favourite song on the album. This is one of the best lyrics that we wrote. “And all that I am and I was yesterday will finally change, perhaps I will find an end to my wandering, my life has flown like a dry river bed, death will surely come to me like a pillow of gold.” Her sense of humour comes through, saying that she will rest and have peace, finally an end to this never-ending journey only when she’s gone! You know in the Godfather, there’s a scene where this little boy playing, I think it’s the end of the movie, so we were inspired by this when we wrote the verse “don’t you cry over me, I wish the sun will shine on you, it has forgotten me.” It’s like in the Godfather, it inspired us. We sing intervals, in fourths, and it’s a very common in the Jewish/Yemenite synagogue that the men sing the prayer – read the Torah – in a harmony, and it sounds like Gregorian chants. So we said we had to add this because it’s like musically, the song started from that ‘la la la’ melody. It symbolises the angels that are coming for her.

Bayti Fi Rasi
(BMG Rights Management / Warner)
VÖ: 31.05.2019