We meet the Israeli band chosen by Radiohead to tour the USA with them: Dudu Tassa & The Kuwaitis

Using his ancestors’ compositions as the basis for their music, Israel-based band Dudu Tassa & The Kuwaitis are earning new fans all over as they join Radiohead across their extensive 2017 US tour – personally chosen by the group to do so. While at Coachella, where they helped open the festival, I sat down with the group to learn more about them.

With the band filled with members from both Palestine and Israel, especially at this kind of political and social climate in the world, having a band that represents so much unity be able to surpass the recent travel bans and hysteria and open for one of the biggest bands in the world is a great achievement and example that music conquers all.

Interview translated by the band’s manager, Or Davidson.

Welcome to Coachella! Has this been your first experience of American audiences?

Two years ago we did SXSW and another six or seven gigs here in the US. This our first Coachella, actually. We also have also been supporting Radiohead for the whole US tour now this month. So surprisingly, we got to perform for a lot of people in the US this month.

Can you tell me how that came about?

Okay, so actually, Dudu collaborated nine years ago with Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead when Johnny played in one or two songs (‘Eize Yom’, 2009). It’s amazing. So now when they decided to come to Tel Aviv they talked with us about being the opening act for Tel Aviv and asked for us to send them a few videos to show the band. So I sent Johnny a few videos and sent them to the band and they said, “Maybe you want to come and be the supporting act for the whole US tour?” and we said, “Yeah!”.

How long is the tour? When does the tour kick off?

Actually, we started on the 30th of March in Miami. It was the first show of Radiohead’s US tour. We did nine gigs with them and today we did the last show of the tour. On Sunday, we’re heading back to Tel Aviv.

A lot of international acts don’t go through Tel Aviv…

Look, there is a political situation that makes a lot of bands think twice before they come to Tel Aviv. A lot of stuff with people that don’t like Israel or don’t like the situation between Israel and Palestine. But, for us as a collaborative band with half Jewish, half Palestinian and we have other players from Palestine, it’s most important to play all over the world and to say to all those bands “Just come and play music. We want to hear it”.

Dudu, I understand the music runs pretty deep in your family. Can you describe the music? Like you said, we are singing in Arabic songs that Dudu’s grandfather and his brother, Daoud and Saleh al-Kuwaiti, wrote and composed in the 1920s.

Dudu and Nir (bassist and creative partner), they are the producers of the project. They took the old songs and they modernised it and adapted it. They took songs of eleven and twelve minutes because those times, just the intros were four or five minutes. They adapted to those times and those melodies with bass and drums and new things that the crowd will love. I think that…the language is Arabic but the music is rock and roll, actually, and the crowd likes it.

The language barrier doesn’t seem to be a factor from the way people are responding.

No, I think that actually, especially now that we are speaking at Coachella, I think that when we can see so many artists from so many places in the world when language doesn’t matter, I don’t need to explain more than that.

How has the festival experience been so far?

So, we are trying to see a lot of acts, actually. Things that we don’t know…not lead singers because we want to find new things. We are very happy to see that there is so many young people in the crowd that are interested in the music and it gives us drive and makes us happy to do music and do another project.

What’s next?

Actually, we’re going to Jordan in ten days, and then we’re going to Kazakhstan from there we’re going to the Czech Republic and then we’re going to Poland, we’re going to Canada.

Also we have a lot of gigs in Tel Aviv, we’re trying to do some shows in Israel because our main albums are still there. So we’re trying to still do a few shows there.