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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