Quarter to Africa set the tone

Two musicians of Mizrahi background have burst onto the Israeli pop scene. But they view their cultural influences as coming ultimately from the African continent. The Jerusalem Post reports:

Beginning in 2014, they began as a duo and slowly added other
musicians to create what is now a multi-artist, multi-instrument group.
They released their new single “Layback” on April 11 and dropped their
EP on the 20th. Yakir and Elyasaf sat down with The Jerusalem Post to
discuss afros, Arabic quarter notes and Kendrick Lamar.

What are your musical backgrounds?

Y: I’ve played since I was 10 years old. I started to play the
saxophone and I studied music. I moved to New York after my studies to
pursue being a musician there. I came back in 2009 and realized that I
didn’t want to be just a jazz musician. I wanted to connect all of my
influences to something organic; to find a unique style. It started to
happen with the fusion of world music, funk and jazz. Somewhere along
the way I met Elyasaf.

E: I feel like I’ve been playing music forever.

I
started off banging on tables, then I moved to playing guitar when I
was 15. Being a musician is exploring all the time; exploring
instruments and life. It’s a journey. Now we’re getting to some very
cool places.

How did you guys come to form Quarter to Africa? E:
The answer to that is it really just became. We saw each other a few
times and we both have this afro kind of hair; we have similar
Afro-Arab looks. Immediately we became friends and we realized that we
were going to be forming a very cool band.

We knew it straight
away. Ever since then, we’ve been becoming. We’ve been collaborating
with Avishai Cohen and Nechi Nech, who is an Israeli rapper. They’re
both feature on our new single “Layback.” It’s very groovy and
refreshing.

Y: The song really characterizes our band.

It’s
a laid back way of life and you can feel it in the beat of the music.
This is what makes Quarter to Africa; it’s our layback.

Our musical influences from our roots and what we’ve absorbed.

What
are your roots? E: I see myself as a Hebrew man. Originally my
grandmother and grandfather are from Yemen. But that’s the story of
Israel; all the cultures get mixed up together into this Afro-Arab
sound.

Y: My mom’s side is from Iran and my dad is from Iraq. But
he lived by a lot of Moroccan and Yemenite people. So the folklore
music is very much in me.

What’s the meaning of your name?

Y:The
band is named after the quarter note. In traditional Arabic music,
they have a different kind of scale system that uses only quarter
notes. So the name comes from that Arabic sound. It also comes from the
continent right near us that we believe is within the foundation of
Jews in general.

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