By Arielle Hixson, DC Music Live
Erez Safar, known throughout the world as DJ Diwon, is an influential DJ based in New York. He is originally from the District, and is recognized for fusing traditional Jewish and world music with contemporary hip-hop and electronic beats. DC Music Live had the chance to sit down with DJ Diwon before his performance at the Jewish Music Festival and get his take on the power of mixing traditional music with a new sound, as well as his thoughts on the D.C. music scene.
How did you first get your interest in music?
Well, in high school I bought a guitar and drum set and turntables. After school was when I was getting into music recording and experimenting with different styles. And then in college I was a DJ for four years at the University of Maryland, and that was when I got introduced to a lot of different genres because it was freeform. It wasn’t like a playlist or anything like that, you could play whatever you want.
What kind of music do you play?
Now I’m doing sort of hip-hop, dance hall and electronic music and I started this other music label called Bancs.
What would you say was your most successful mixtape and why?
I do all sorts of mixtapes, like my latest one was called “Chulo” and it was electronic – a mix of house, hip-hop and dance hall. So that was cool, and it was cool to see the reactions. The one that I did called “Sabra Sessions” was world and dance, but it was really focused on Israeli remixes and Hebrew songs and stuff like that. I was really driven to make it – and people’s reactions were similar. They were mixtapes (with traditional music) that weren’t dance or hip-hop in any of those kind of beats and then mix it in with Santigold, MIA all those other tracks. So I think people are really into that – they liked to get introduced to Jewish/Hebrew music in a different way. So I think that one was one of the one that got the most attention.
Any new projects under your belt?
Yeah I mean I’m finishing this project I’m doing with this Bronx Rapper, Kyle Rapps. We just did this EP called “Tyrone Gosling” and it’s a remix of the movie “Drive” with Ryan Gosling so that was cool. And now we’re doing this project called Syndication which is like a TV show remix project, which includes music from all TV shows with him rapping and kind of cutting it up. So that’s almost done, and then at the same time we each have our own solo albums coming out.
What makes the Jewish music festival especially important?
Cultures like to connect with their own heritage and history, you know, so I think it’s cool to have a Jewish Music Festival. There may be a lot of people who still want to even find out what a Jewish Music Festival even means. You know, they may want to be exposed to a different kind of music. That gives people a chance to explore that kind of music in a more contemporary way. I think the festival does a good job of presenting all sorts of different acts and music genres to appeal to different demographics. I think this will be the third time doing this festival, and it always sells out which is kinda cool. It’s always been one of my favorite festivals to play.
Did Jewish Music have a large influence on your childhood?
My Mom played some music from Yemen, so I was in to that. But other than that I was in to Bon Jovi, The Motley Crew, Michael Jackson “Thriller”, you know.
Who’s your favorite artist now?
That’s always a really hard answer because I’m always playing different stuff in the car. I mean right now I’m playing Danny Brown. His style is different and really cool.
What are your future goals within your music career?
I think I’m moving to LA in August to open up the studio and really focus on the licensing and publishing aspect of music.
What do you think about the D.C. music scene?
DJ wise I’m probably more on top of it. I know Dave Nada and a bunch of other DJ’s from here are coming out with a lot of cool stuff. And Dave Nada, I knew him from so many other scenes, but dance circa kinda blew up with Dave Nada and that was kinda cool knowing him and seeing him on e-mails. So yeah, that was cool and kinda like a big shout out to DC right there.
Any advice for the DC artist?
I would say to kind of pay attention to what’s happening in the scene, network with people so that you could have a chance to open up to them. That way you’re building awareness in all your space. Definitely clever videos and free downloads, I mean there’s always the aspect of competing to sell music but I think the music world is so different. People are now competing to even get people to download their music for free, so I feel like I would follow that path of having your stuff for free and trying to get the word out to people.