Today's Song of the Day, as chosen by Cheryl Waters, host of the Midday Show on KEXP, is "Jerusalem" by Ben Zaidi, from the 2022 album Acre of Salt on Nettwerk.


 
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photo by Madeline Holland
written by jasmine Albertson

“What are you?” is an eye-rolling question people of mixed heritages never cease to get asked and often have no idea how to answer. Seattle’s Ben Zaidi tackles his unique background and the internal conflict of not knowing how to identify in today’s Song of the Day, “Jerusalem.”

Born to a Jewish father, Pakistani mother, and with Muslim grandparents, Zaidi candidly unpacks his familial stories and the complicated feelings surrounding them in the downtempo guitar strummer. “Sometimes I feel like Jersualem /There’s three religions trickling through my veins,” sings Zaidi in the chorus. “By the time they sort it out /There’ll be nothing left to claim.”

“It is a strange fate being of mixed heritage in the whitewash of America,” Zaidi explains of the song. “Often it feels like the many cultures of my ancestors have been diluted, and I have been left with no heritage rather than many... I am starting, however, to see this disorientation as an identity of its own. Manzur Zaidi was my grandfather I never met. He and his family were Pakistani, and lived through the partition of India... I use their Arabic family name and my Hebrew first name to try to combine the two lineages that most describe my parents. It was only later that I discovered 'Ben' means 'son.' and that 'Zaidi' is also a Yiddish word, for 'grandfather.'"

The song comes from his upcoming debut album Acre of Salt, set for release on June 3rd. Produced by Tony Berg (Phoebe Bridgers, Peter Gabriel, Beck), the record was recorded at Los Angeles' Sound City Studios along with backing band members Ethan Gruska, Sebastian Steinberg (Fiona Apple,) saxophonist Sam Gendel and Kane Ritchotte (Portugal. The Man). Watch the video for “Jersualem” below.

 

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