Raz Mesinai

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Badawi was born Raz Mesinai in 1973 in Jerusalem. By spending a lot of time with Bedouins in the Sinai desert as a youngster, he picked up on their unique musical style. When he reached the age of seven, he was taken under the wing of dervish sheik Murshid Hassan (of the Palestinian refugee camp of  Balata), who taught the youngster all about exotic Middle Eastern drumming.

Soon he had mastered such percussive instruments as the bendir, zarb, and darbukka. He also discovered spirituality along the way, following the Hasidic rabbi and folk musician HaRav Shlomo Carlebach.

After moving to New York City, he found himself immersed in the burgeoning NYC Academy of  Underground DJs (which included DJ Spooky and a host of others) and changed his name to Badawai (which means “desert dweller” or simply “Bedouin”).  By utilizing home recording technology, he recorded his debut for ROIR, Presents Bedouin Sound Clash, which was released in 1996. A year later, the more experimental (but just as good) Jerusalem Under Fire surfaced, which confirmed him as one of the best dub/reggae DJs of the late ’90s. Further releases followed (during which time Badawai changed the spelling of his name slightly, to Badawi), including 1999’s The Heretic of Ether and 2001’s The Soldier of Midian.

Due to releases like Jerusalem Under Fire, Badawai has become one of the world’s most renowned Middle Eastern percussionists. He’s become an influential figure for the New York City trip-hop (or illbient) style of underground dancehall/dub music.

Amazingly, almost all the sounds you hear on Jerusalem Under Fire are played by Badawai himself, who handles percussion, flute, and effects duties, as well as supplying the string arrangements and remixing and rearranging the songs. Two other musicians (violinist Simi Sernaker and tabla player Karsh Kale) help fill out the already rich sound, while all of the compositions are entirely instrumental. Highlights are many, but the very best would have to be the constant violin swirl of  “Soldier of Midian,” and the percussion-driven opening track “Critical Combustion,” and the traditional reggae sounds of  “Kill the Messenger.” (iTunes)


Composer, producer and sound alchemist Raz Mesinai makes music at the intersection of  Dub and modern composition. As a solo artist and with his ensembles, he creates mythic performances evoking ancient rhythms with electronics, acoustic instruments and turntables. His recordings as Badawi have placed him on the forefront of the experimental electronic scene for over a decade, with remixes contributed by such artists as Kode 9, Shackleton, DJ Spooky and Headhunter, and Badawi remixes of Burning Spear, Arto Lindsay and Shackleton. He’s been a fixture of the downtown New York improvised music scene as well since the late nineties, collaborating with such luminaries as John Zorn, Mark Dresser, Elliott Sharp, DJ Olive and many others.

Mesinai’s music has been performed at The Lincoln Center Festival, Zankel Hall, The Kitchen, the Next, Next Wave Festival (BAM), The Whitney Museum, ICA London, Saafelden Jazz Festival, Etnafest, Tonic, The Stone, The Winter Garden, and numerous underground clubs in New York and Europe, including Love, Soundlab, and the legendary Mars, Sound Factory, Limelight and Save the Robots. In recent years, his work has been commissioned and performed by The Kronos Quartet, Ethel, VIA, and cellist Maya Beiser. In 2002 his music received an honorary award in the Ars Electronica Digital Musics category.

Mesinai is also an accomplished film composer. He was a Sundance Composers’ Lab fellow in 2004, and has scored feature films, documentaries, and short films, including Sorry Haters (official selection Toronto Film Festival), Romantico (offical selection Sundance Film Festival) and The Projectionist, for which he won the Herb Alpert Award for Excellence in Music for Film.  His music has also been featured in films by Ridley Scott, Jonathan Demme and Darren Aronofsky (source).

Album: “Jerusalem Under Fire” by Badawi (Raz Mesinai)

Price: $9.99
Genres: World, Music, Reggae, Dub, Electronic, Ambient, Jazz
Released: October 10, 1997 ℗ 1997 ROIR

To buy CD/listen to samples click here (iTunes)

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