Amira Jazeera talks to Palestine in America ahead of her Palipalooza performance
One of jazz and r&b’s emerging indie voices, Amira Jazeera showcases a unique sound and aesthetic. The young Palestinian American started singing at 6-years-old and always knew her calling was in music.
She moved to Chicago when she was just 18-years-old to begin her journey as an artist, songwriter, singer and producer. Jazeera’s music explores coming into her own independence after challenging traditional norms of what is expected of her.
She gracefully comes into her own and explores her struggles as an Arab-American woman discovering herself and how she fits into a complex world. Jazeerah writes soulful r&b songs about self love and intimacy while incorporating jazzy vocals. Her smooth downtempo sound is pure, soulful and her lyrics are relatable. Jazeeras’ deeply personal track “Self Centered” is full of unapologetic energy and bold statements regarding protecting one's heart and knowing your self worth.
Listening to Jazeeras tracks, one can feel the ongoing soul searching. Born in Columbus, Ohio, and now based in Chicago, Jazeeras identity as a Palestinian woman living in the diaspora highly informs her craft and sound as well. She draws inspiration from Palestinian instruments such as the tablah and the oud and merges it with todays modern sounds. Jazeera adores other r&b and pop artists and is influenced by artists such as Snoh Aalegra, Aaliyah, Brandy, India Arie & Ariana Grande. Her music can be found on Spotify and Apple music.
Palestine in America interviewed Jazeera ahead of her Palipalooza performance in August to discuss her writing process, her Palestinian background and her advice for aspiring artists.
Palestine in America (PiA): How did you decide you wanted to pursue music?
Amira Jazeera(AJ): Music has always been in my life, my older brother is a musician and growing up we would go to his orchestra concerts, and my sister grew up loving to sing as well and was in choir. I started singing as young as 6 years old, I always said I’ve wanted to be a singer but was shut down by my elders saying “that’s not realistic” or “you need to go to college and get a career.” I’ve never been the type of person who likes going with the current, one day I decided I’m going to drop everything, start over and move to a new city and begin my music career more seriously and get right to it. And It was so liberating to have made that decision absolutely no regrets.
PiA: What are some of the main challenges of being a Palestinian and woman artist?
AJ: I think the main challenges in being Palestinian and woman is the representation. There’s not a lot of Palestinian American women representing us in the music industry and I feel like it’s my duty to represent the version of us that we don’t see in the media of who a Palestinian American woman is and making sure that I tend to the right audience and bring attention to that side.
PiA: Can you talk a little bit about your songwriting process?
AJ: Most of my writing is based off of my experiences or those of the people around me, it’s all about telling a story. The process of actually writing the song, I start sometimes by finding a melody I really enjoy and that stands out and I’ll find really strong lyrics to go over it, or sometimes it’s vis versa and I find a strong set of lyrics that I translate over to as a hook, then build around those ideas. Sometimes I’ll come up with an idea and write it down in my notes and come back to it months later even.
PiA: What do you hope your listeners will feel/understand through your music?
AJ: I hope my listeners feel me and whatever I’m saying in my music. There’s tons of stories to be told in one song, I hope they discover all of them through listening and connecting.
PiA: How does your background as a Palestinian woman inform your creativity and artistry?
AJ: As a Palestinian woman growing up around Arab music and music in English, I’ve learned to get inspiration from the sounds that I’ve grown up with and transfer it into today’s modern sound. l love adding a tablah or an oud to my music when producing my tracks, to add a touch of flavor and to add that Arab- American sauce.
PiA: What inspired the single "Self Centered"?
AJ: “Self Centered” was inspired by me realizing I had to protect my energy in a toxic situation that was drowning me, that I had to flee. And that it’s okay to love yourself. That can be perceived as being “self-centered” when we are talking about “Me, Myself & I” - When actually all it is is self love. At the end of the day all you have is you. You are fully responsible for how your dreams play out and come into reality.
PiA: How does it feel to have such personal projects out in the open?
AJ: It feels great, it feels natural. Music to me should be honest and transparent, I like to use my music as a form of manifestation and only speak the right words in my lyrics as the power of the word is so strong.
PiA: What has been your favorite single to release so far? And why?
AJ: I think Self Centered for sure, it’s my most honest and vulnerable song out right now. To me it holds a deep meaning and I hope others feel connected to that energy as they heard those words being sung.
PiA: What are some ways people can show up for and support women artists and musicians?
AJ: It’s free to share/repost songs, come to shows, buy their merchandise. People can also do so by just giving the credit that is due. Women rule the world if we’re being honest, and the recognition isn’t always there. It’s time for us to change that especially in Chicago women artists and singers don’t get enough recognition
PiA: Do you have any advice for young Palestinian artists who would like to pursue music or the arts in general?
AJ: Go for it! Find your sound, meet the right people, Network as much as possible, and promote yourself. if you have the passion, the possibility is there. You ultimately have the control over your own life and your dreams by manifestations and action. Don’t wait up for it to happen, make it happen!