Alternative world fusion. That’s right, it’s a genre. And Palestinian musician Khaled Dajani fits right into, if not defines it entirely.
With his first guitar around age 11, Dajani popped his songwriter cherry with the obligatory Nirvana-esque songs characteristic of a teen metalhead planting his roots in the music soil. Years later, he has created a perfect blend of the middle-eastern music he grew up with, Spanish music he’s been exposed to and his first love, rock and roll. Influenced also by a wide array of artists, ranging from Tool to Stevie Wonder (let the record show he also blatantly appreciated some Etta James while we talked), Dajani has no choice but to spawn his own brand of music to match his personal style.
Much of the fuel for this new fusion of beautiful sounds has been a direct result of the natural growth process any good musician experiences.
“My experience has shaped my music and what I wanted to do with my life,” he admits. “It’s kinda really what you’re feeling. Through this last record I learned that the more honest you are with yourself, the better the lyrics are gonna come out.”
Dajani has come to terms with expressing himself in pure form through his music, but he notes that being so open with himself took time.
“Sometimes you wanna hide things because you’re not sure how it’s gonna be perceived, but that’s what art is supposed to be anyway,” he says. “You’re supposed to show what we really are as people, as humans. You just have to put it all out there and see what happens.”
Over time, Dajani’s experiences, whether bad or good, have played integral parts in his development as a musician, and as it turns out, a pretty awesome guy. In addition to his everyday musical life, Dajani volunteers as a hospital musician in the city. By his account, he goes into rooms with a host and offers to play music. While some patients do decline, others don’t, and when Dajani plays for his ailing audience, everyone wins.
“I love it. It really reminds you of why you’re doing this,” he expresses. “You walk in and someone is down, then you leave and they’re smiling. It’s very cool.”
This mindset drives home the feeling behind Dajani’s opinion of his music career thus far.
“I’ve been very successful as a musician,” he maintains. “I haven’t made millions, and I’m not world famous, but that wasn’t ever really the point. The hardest thing about all of it is you wanna do so much for the love of music, for the love of art, for the love of connecting people, but money…money always holds you back. You just have to find a way to be as creative as you can, be as innovative as you can and do your best to reach out. It’s true we have the internet and you have access to reach all these people, but because there’s so much information, people are just bombarded by it, and how are you going to get anyone’s ear?”
Dajani seems to have found one answer in his first performance at New York City’s CMJ Music Marathon. His CMJ debut goes down at 5:15 tomorrow at Houston St.’s ZirZamin. NY Social Status may or may not (that means it’s happening) be leaving work early tomorrow to catch this show, and you would be wise to do the same. Do you really need an excuse to duck out of work early?
Originally published October 16, 2012 on NewYorkSocialStatus.com