Music fans need to pay attention to a new voice in music, Jaafar. The upcoming singer/songwriter is now getting the attention of America with his new single, “Sixteen” and I was happy to speak with Jaafar about his single, his unique sound, and what fans can expect on his upcoming album.
What led you to music?
You know, I’ve always loved music and I’ve always been singing. If you ask my parents, I never was quiet in the home; I’ve always been singing growing up. I always [singing] in school, in [productions], and when my voice started to change, I kind of stepped away from it because I couldn’t hit the notes I used to…I couldn’t really sing anymore at one point, so I stepped away from it and came back to it later on. At that point, I started writing my own music, so I learned to play guitar as a necessity at that point. From then on, I started pursuing it as a career path.
The song “Sixteen” is very heavy; the girl that’s the center of the song is living through war. Was there any specific inspiration for the song?
Yeah, definitely. I grew up in a country that, thank God, is safe, but I think, is surrounded by a lot of uncertainty and war and conflict. When you grow up around that, it’s something that you’re always touched by. Now, that there’s more of that in the world, unfortunately, more uncertainty and unrest, I was really affected by that and wanted to write about that. And living here in the States, sometimes, you’re so far away from it [through] television that you really can’t fully understand it until you’re much closer to it. So I think that’s also something that is part of the song.
How did you come up with your signature sound?
I was recording an album about three years ago which was supposed to be my debut album. I actually put out two singles from that album in my hometown and they did really well and I went to perform a festival there last summer…[My producer] and I were still working on it and I started to realize that I wasn’t really connecting to it.
After I got back to Miami from the festival, I really took some time searching for my sound. I wrote a lot of new music, I explored a lot of different sounds, but I went back to my first love, which is Middle Eastern, Arabic music. I infused that with my songwriting style, which is more Western. I wrote a song called “Daliah”, and it’s actually the second song off this album, and as far as subject matter, it inspired the rest of the album. And when I went into the studio and started working with producers on the album, I knew I had stumbled onto something that I identified with much more than I was doing before. I think that was just a natural growth process.
You’re currently working in Miami; what do you like the most about Miami?
There’s a lot of things I like about Miami. I like, obviously, that it’s summer all year round [laughs]. That keeps you nice and positive and in a good mood, for the most part. I also like the music scene there because…there’s a big Latin market and it’s not just straight-up pop-rock or anything like that. I think it’s an eclectic music scene that I learned a lot from.
I asked that with a personal reason in mind; I moved to Miami three years ago, and I’ve since moved back. One of the things I realized during and after the move was how homesickness will affect you in different ways. How have you dealt with the homesickness of being so far from home? Has it come out in your writing or other ways that you didn’t expect?
Yeah, definitely. This album has a song on it…that definitely talks about that, about leaving home. I left [home] when I was 17, and I go back as often as I can but…of course I get very homesick and I miss my family and friends that are living there. And the country itself I also miss. But when I decided to do music, I knew I had to leave…in order to give myself my best job. So how do I deal with it? …I actually [listen to] a lot of Arabic music, and watch TV shows that remind me of that, I talk to my family on the internet with Skype…I try to [call] them as soon and as often as I can.
With your album, what can people expect as far as music as subject matter?
I think if you liked “Sixteen,” there’s going to be a lot more of that vibe on the album…There’s some uptempo songs and there’s a little bit of everything on there, which is what I really like…In terms of subject matter, there’s also a lot of social commentary, how I feel about how I left home…like you said,”Sixteen” is a heavy song and there are a lot of heavy subjects that I discuss on this album, but I try to do it in a way where there’s still a little bit of hope [instead of] all the doom and gloom, because otherwise, we’re doomed.
Is a release date set?
We did have a release date, but since “Sixteen” is doing good in the States, everybody thought that we should extend the lifespan of the single. It’s going to radio next week,* actually.
Yes. [The album] won’t be out for a little while now. I hope sooner rather than later, maybe at the end of the year or early next year. But I hope to have a second single out before that.
Is there a tour coming up or any way fans will be able to meet you in person?
Yeah, we’re definitely working on it. When the album comes out, I can’t wait to get on the road and play live because that’s my favorite part of what I do.
Do you have any message you’d like to give to the fans?
Yeah, Of course I’d like to say thank you for all of your support and I think, recently, with the success “Sixteen” has been getting—I’ve gotten a lot of nice messages and people have started to follow me on social media, and I just want to say thank you to everyone and I try to reply to all of you and I really thank you for all of your support.