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Zoe
Jamileh
Zoe
Jamileh

Singer-Songwriter. Vocalist. Rhythm Guitarist. A student of politics.

She declares that for the first time in her life, she is not trying to figure out who she is and where she fits in the grand scheme of things.

Zoe Jamileh declares that for the first time in her life, she is not trying to figure out who she is and where she fits in the grand scheme of things.

Short Bio Zoe Jamileh. Singer-Songwriter. Vocalist. Rhythm Guitarist. A student of politics.

To those who know her work and have had the privilege of meeting her busking, she is simply a one-namer; Jazz. When she visited our BissFest office in the latter part of 2020, she introduced herself as Zoe Jamileh. Zoe is subtly different from the stage persona she has created to distinguish art from real life. Our Co-Founder Koray Gül met the artist busking and immediately suggested we meet the ambiguous personality.

When she arrived for our interview, she was greeted cheerfully by our in-house team and then ushered into the studio room where our conversation took place. She walks into a room that bears the likeness of a stage. There are cameras, some microphones, a guitar, and a cloudy black backdrop. The light in the room is made to fit the occasion and to cause the artist to unwind. Zoe is relaxed in an all-black ensemble that echoes a curious and dangerously youthful effervescence typical of people who dwell in a city like Berlin. She carries herself with a confidence that can only come from a unique recognition that life itself is an art lived and echoed by bodies that experience it. Zoe appears determined and very cognizant of who she is and what her path is. And she believes she can only get there, doing what she loves most, Music. Music is something familiar to her – It is a reassuring and continuous companion. She has been singing for two decades now. She wrote her first song at six. By the age of ten, she was already performing on stage with her father. In many instances, she labels him “an excellent musician” and crowns him as the person to whom she owes the most. He gave her her first guitar. Also, he taught her how to play guitar chords and the importance of reading the tabs. She suggests that he gave her the agency she needed to sing. She grew up battling crippling anxiety and fear. Having someone she loved and trusted uplifting her when she needed it was an invaluable privilege she will forever feel grateful for. She runs on the motto: “be scared, but still do it”.

She discloses that she has a lot of fear and anxiety around her abilities and talents. In recent years, she confesses that she has been able to evade some of that fear by convincing herself to “just do it”. She tells herself it is okay to “be scared”. That sitting in discomfort and waltzing through it is something we must all face whether we like it or not. She believes without a doubt that music is her purpose. That to her is something she understood very early on in her life. That understanding reared its head when she realized that music was a lifeline. It is how she communicated with her parents, her siblings, and the world around her. While she sees herself as a professional at what she does today, she remembers a time, when the notion of singing caused her body to break into hives. She remembers being self-conscious and critical of herself, her talents, and her ability to emote and perform.

Today, she busks for a living. She has done so since she hit fourteen. She identifies herself as a rhythm guitarist who loves vocally gifted female artists who use their work to empower other women. She names Corinne Bailey Rae as one of those artists whose work has meant a lot to her artistry. The artist has moved a great deal, living across Munich, Berlin, and Palestine. Home is a subject she believes to be rather too complicated for conversation especially when she grounds it in what she maintains was a “life in motion”, characterised by a constant movement of sorts. At eighteen, the tides turned, as she was finally able to enjoy some stillness. What she learned from these experiences is, to never fully attach herself to a place. Being the second eldest of three siblings, she is always looking out for her brother and sister.

She revealed that being apart from them at different times has left an indelible mark. It interrupted what could have been an even stronger relationship. She wishes she could have played a role in their lives in a more tangible way but realizes to do so she needs to take care of herself first. She talked about the importance of making time to “sit down and talk through collective familial experiences” as a conduit to healing. The artist insists that by acknowledging our experiences, we can finally move forward and improve our relationships with the people we love. Zoe is doing her part to better her relationship with her family. She talked about the bond she is building with the women closest to her. Zoe is an integral part of their little “girl family”. She explains this constellation as a relationship that thrives on respect, mutual interest, acceptance, and the unspoken privileges of womanhood. It is a sisterhood of shared experiences. She describes the dynamic between the women in this sisterhood as comfortable and understanding. Zoe is eloquent on the subject of politics in general and Palestinian politics in specific.

She has strong ties to the community at home and abroad. Palestine is and shall forever be home to her and her family. She speaks in full-awareness about her undying connection to the country. In the time she was there, she recalls living in a bubble of protection accorded by the many privileges of childhood bliss. Notwithstanding, she remembers seeing lingering helplessness. People struggling with water regulation issues, the occupation of checkpoints which made trafficking certain places difficult, the highly militarized nature of the place, and the influence of patriarchy. Notwithstanding the love she feels for the country, she fears that the structures that govern it are not invested in her liberation. In closing, she argues that the notion of knowing oneself is a myth she has chosen to reject. She thinks that because life is a continuum, we are constantly changing and shifting. She declares that for the first time in her life, she is not trying to figure out who she is and where she fits in the grand scheme of things.

She believes that it is okay to accept we will never fully know or understand who we are and to make peace with that knowledge.

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