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Jerusalem in My Heart talk about their debut LP, eight years in the making

Posted by Greg / March 14, 2013

20120214-JIMH.jpgJerusalem in My Heart (JIMH) have been a fixture - some would say a cornerstone - of the Montreal music scene since their formation in 2005. The contemporary Arabic and electronic music project was created by Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, who is also a co-owner of the storied loft turned recording studio Hotel2Tango. Despite all these years performing and engineering albums for other artists, Moumneh only recently put JIMH's music on wax. The record, entitled Mo7it Al-Mo7it, is set for release on Constellation at Le National this Friday. As Moumneh prepares for the show, he took a minute to talk with Midnight Poutine about about finally recording JIMH, as well his involvement in the Beirut experimental music world, his guiding passions, and his reluctance to identify a specific Montreal "scene."

You have been writing music as Jerusalem In My Heart since 2005 and are only now recording an album. Why did you wait so long? And why now?

The project has primarily been, up to this point a live performance project. It was always difficult to imagine presenting JIMH in a tour setting considering all the technical needs, and the importance of tailoring a performance to the venue. Over the last couple of years, the work Malena Szlam, Jérémie Regnier and I had been doing was making a lot of sense to me, and we were trying to envision how to make this into a 'tour-able' show. We simultaneously were approached by Constellation Records to release a record, and so we moved ahead and worked both aspects to be able to have an engagement with a booking agent who can 'sell' the show to bookers etc. The record was not a priority at the time, and even the production of it was rather 'quick' for an album, but as a result, I seem to be growing fond of it as time is passing. It was done under pretty difficult life conditions...

Has a primarily live musical project offered some kind of release from your life as a recording engineer? Have you seen yourself as balancing two passions?

No i wouldn't say that. I'm not a person who needs a 'release' from any aspect of my life. i really am fortunate to be on the path that I'm on, working constantly with people whom challenge me in one way or another. All the aspects of my life to me are an extension of my personality, including JIMH. All of those parts are a passion. Eating to me is as much a passion as engineering, playing my buzuk, working on film, etc. It's all a part of you and there is no order of importance.

How did your approach to songwriting and performing change when you
went into the studio?

I never did go into the studio. The entire record was done in my kitchen. It happened during an extremely busy time of my life, so I went into a schedule of waking up at 4 am and working on the album from 4 am to 9 am, as my work day was from 10 am to 10 pm. I did that for a little over a week, and it was done. I didn't over think it or get too intellectual about it. I went with first instincts. I really had no idea what was going to come out of the recordings. Just a mic, a synth, a buzuk and some birds. We didn't record or mix any of it at the Hotel.

Hotel2Tango has a long history - as a performance space, an artist space, and as a recording studio. How did you get involved?

It happened naturally. I cannot think of how exactly it came about. Just people and ideas merging I guess. That was so long ago and its truly a blur.

How has the community around Hotel2Tango changed in time you've been involved with it? Has it mirrored any larger changes in the Montreal music world?

I don't see a change, personally. It's just that the media and its hype that change, and try to take something and make it news so that they have something to say. People who are distant to such activities read this crap and buy into some fake 'magic' that is in the Montreal waters that makes everyone 'so talented.' It's beyond boring to me, and it focuses mostly on the anglophone culture aspect of the city, morphing it slowly to the rest of canadian culture.

You have roots in the Beirut music scene as well. How does it feel working between two cities What does it offer you?

Beirut is a place that inspires me so much. Being there is what gives birth to all of these projects and ideas for myself. For Malena and Jérémie too, they both have an attachment to the city (Jérémeie lived there for a while. We will both grow old there togetehr, in a house on the sea...). You know, JIMH does exist as a montreal project, but its so hard for me to see a Montreal in the work. It really is. It's just where I live and work and exist, but my heart is almost always in Beirut, and that is the state I'm in when I'm working on this project.

Can you recommend any artists from that scene for anyone interested in learning more about it?

This June, my dear friends 'Wormholes' are performing at Suoni. They consist of the visual artist and musician Mazen Kerbaj and musician Sharif Sehnaoui. Two incredible people with so much talent. Highly recommended.

Ghassan Salhab is a film director whom I love. Really amazing fim maker with a strong vision.
Charbel Haber, a very talented guitar player who has really honed in on his particular style. He has performed here in Montreal in the past, and hopefully will again.

What's next? Touring? More writing? More recording?

There are two European and a North African tour in the works for the fall. We are laying low for the Summer as we all have a handful of projects to tend to, but come fall, it will be rather busy.

Hear Mo7it Al-Mo7it streaming in its entirety on the CBC website.

Watch a video of JIMH live at Sala Rosa in 2007:

Jerusalem in My Heart play Le National this Friday, March 15.



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