The front page of the Times of Israel features Sephardic Music Festival founder, dubbed “The Orthodox mastermind behind ‘Jewish cool’

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Here’s a snippet: Throughout the aughts, he had made a name for himself in New York’s Jewish music scene, working with artists like Matisyahu, Y-Love, Moshav, Pharaoh’s Daughter, Shi 360, Electro Morocco, and others.

“When I moved to New York [after college], I was booking these kinds of interesting, weirdo Jewish events right at the beginning of the Jewish thing being cool,” says Safar.

“When Matisyahu’s band manager called me, all I knew was there was this Hasidic guy who could beatbox. He opened for me DJ-ing cantorial music with drum and bass, and then Matis jumped on with two Chabad guys, one on the hand drum, one on guitar. Everyone who was there was like, ‘what just happened?’”

From there, things began to pick up quickly, he says. Safar began making and DJ-ing his own music — a melange of hip hop, dance, Middle Eastern canon, and klezmer punk — as well as producing music for other artists. In booking shows, releasing music, and promoting, he founded his Shemspeed music label and Bancs Media, a production company and branding agency serving Jewish and non-Jewish artists, alike.

To this day, he continues to make music under various creative identities, including h2the, his latest ’80s-style synth project, and his better known stage name Diwon.

Erez Safar borrowed the stage name Diwon from a Yemenite book of songs and prayers.

“I reinvented myself,” Safar says. “When I did a residency at the Jewish Museum in Manhattan, I produced and performed in full Yemenite henna style garb. But I also took the name mainly because I didn’t want something that sounded too much of one thing, since I knew I would produce all sorts of music.”

‘I didn’t want something that sounded too much of one thing, since I knew I would produce all sorts of music’
He’s been called the “hardest working man in the Jewish music industry,” but in the decade since that particular accolade, he’s branched out into so much more.

“Music is my biggest passion,” Safar says, “but the truth is I love art in all its manifestations.”

From 2005 through 2015, he produced the Sephardic Music Festival, bringing together art, music, food, and fashion derived from Mizrahi and Sephardic tradition — often overshadowed by “Ashkenormative” tendencies in New York and throughout the United States.

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