To collaborate is tricky, and to collaborate across cultures all the more so because as an artist you are not just bringing your art into conversation, but your cultures too. When Israeli artist Eliezer Cohen Botzer, who describes himself as a troubadour — lyric-poets and poet-musicians of Old Occitan lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages (12th–14th Century CE) — was looking for a spiritual counterpart across the ocean, he found one in Lucky Ali, India’s wandering minstrel with a sufi-sandpaper voice.
Together they are producing a cross-cultural album, Lemalla. ‘Amaraya’ is the second single in this album. The first, ‘On My Way’, released in November 2019. It’s easy to see this as a conversation between two Abrahamic faiths — Islam and Judaism, East and West. The impulse is understandable since both are devout followers of their faith. Even Ali noted that though they were from different countries, they came from the same background of their Abrahamic faiths, which have been historically at war.
In ‘Amaraya’, the English of ‘On My Way’ is axed for Arabic— the meeting ground, so to speak, between Hebrew and Urdu. Amaraya means mirror, and the refrain of the song translates as “We are all mirrors and reflections of each other.”
Ali brings with him Indian instrumentation which leads the composition — the flute by Annada Parsanna Pattanaik, and the tabla — and the words “Ekam Brahmam”, the world is one, that are sung along with Hebrew chants of how the heart reflects the man.
What Ali called a “jugalbandi”, ‘Amaraya’ is a soft song whose words and visuals betray a restlessness of being. Ali in a denim dungaree, Botzer walking along the coast, both trying to find what it is that we need to truly be considered one.