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There are many variations of the traditional Sudra/Keffiyeh headdress, both in color and style, all with very long traditions and histories. In 2009, we released a new version of the Sudra/Keffiyeh; an Israeli version which is blue and white, designed by Baruch Chertok. In order for everyone to understand the cultural context of this contribution, we’ve chosen to release this statement about the family history of our founder, Shemspeed/The Semetic:
My family originates from Yemen, where my ancestors had lived for close to 2,000 years. Nearly 100 years ago, my Grandmother’s side of the family decided to move to Adis Ababa, Ethiopia and then to Israel, in 1933 (Southern Syria/Mandate Palestine at the time). On my Grandfather’s side, our family emigrated to Israel in 1924. Jews indigenous to the Middle East, such as my family, have worn some variation of the “kefyah” (cap/kippah) and sudra/keffiyah (head/neck scarves) for thousands of years. The original purpose of these scarves was to provide protection from the sun and sand.
Recently, we have had some Arab friends take offense to our new scarf-remix. Their concern is that this is cultural appropriation. In response, I thought it was essential to release this statement in order to clarify the historical facts on the ground and, to provide some context. I as a Jew am not offended by the Pope who wears a “kippah” and in the same respect, I don’t feel there is any reason for anyone taking offense to a Jewish person wearing a version of the Sudra/Keffiyah that they identify with — especially considering the significance of this article of clothing in both of all of our histories. There are numerous variations of the Sudra/Keffiyah today: the ones worn as part of the Jewish henna wedding ceremonies held by most Middle Eastern Jews; the red and white Keffiyah is associated with Jordan and worn throughout the Middle East and Somalia, which have been worn by Bedouins for centuries; the black and white Keffiyah, idolized in the 1960s by Yasser Arafat, which has become the symbol of the Palestinian resistance movement; and countless others.
The question of how symbols are politicized and used to divide, rather than unite people, is exactly the kind of thought-provoking topic that we at The Semitic/Shemspeed/Sephardic Music Festival strive to explore with our music, as well as our programming. Our Israeli remix of the Sudra/Keffiyeh, available through The Semitic, is just one more interpretation of a scarf worn by our brothers for thousands of years. We hope you enjoy them.
– EREZ SAFAR, Founder of The Semitic