For decades, New York City has been a stage for artists to perform, whether it be on the street, in the subways, or in the center of a busy park. Israeli musician Eran Sabo, who is now based in Bushwick, recently lent himself to the public eye for a project he did in conjunction with the release of his first single, “Shiva.” For the project, Sabo wrapped his half-naked body in Saran wrap and went into public spaces such as Lincoln Center, Times Square, and different subway stations, taking pictures and waiting for reactions.
“I consider it a social experiment,” Sabo told Bushwick daily. “I wanted to see how people would respond to this character.”
Shiva is about the constant struggle we face as humans to not hide our true selves from the world. The name itself means “seven” in Hebrew, and is also a seven day Jewish ritual, in which mourners create an environment of comfort and community that helps them cope with their loss—Sabo wrote the song during a Shiva. Saran wrap, a synthetic material, represents all the masks and layers we encase ourselves in when in the presence of others.
“I received a mix of responses,” Sabo said. He first performed as this character in Lincoln Center, where he walked around taking promotional pictures. “At first it was fine, but the closer I got to the main buildings, security confronted me and asked me if I was leaving.” But he wasn’t at all offended, instead, he was curious about the security guard’s response. “He was understanding of the project,” Sabo explained, “But I was making others uncomfortable, which is why I was asked to leave.”
Being a social experiment, these are the kinds of responses Sabo was looking for: he’s more interested in knowing why people find discomfort around this character rather than trying to prove a point. “Younger people were a lot more receptive of this idea,” he said. While in Lincoln Center, a group of kids came up to him, asking him questions and taking pictures. “They were really excited to see something like this in a place like Lincoln Center.” Throughout the course of his experiment, Sabo found younger generations to be more accepting of what he was doing than older.
One of the most interesting encounters Sabo experienced was on the subway with two Hasidic Jewish men. “I saw them staring at me, so I decided to talk to them. I explained to them my project, and one was more partial to the project than the other, which started a discussion between them,” Sabo said. Shiva is entirely in Hebrew, and even has spiritual undertones given the lyrics:
“All my layers
a forgotten Dance
Naked I was born
And Naked I will return”
“They understood my ideas, but had a hard time accepting if it was ‘right.’”
Sabo was born and raised in Kfar-Saba Israel, where he spent much 0f his young life studying music. He started playing guitar when we hes 10, and went through a jazz intensive program in high school, and was able to continue his studies into college while serving the country. He came to New York about seven years ago, where he got his masters in music at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.
“One of the main reasons why I stayed in New York is because of the diversity here,” Sabo said. Although Israel is already “incredibly diverse,” the type of energy here is what kept him here. “In New York, I’m able to do social experiments like this.”
As a musician, Sabo has performed worldwide such as Carnegie Hall, The BPC in Boston, and the Palazzo del Popolo in Orvieto, Italy. In 2014, he was one of the three guitarists chosen to participate at the 2014 Betty Carter Jazz Ahead artist residency program at the Kennedy Center, Washington D.C. He’s now living and working in Bushwick, making music, teaching, and performing.
Shiva isn’t the only song that deals with a persona. For each of his singles, Sabo has developed a character that speaks to different aspects of the human experience. With the release of his EP, he hopes to continue building these characters and creating dialogue between them. “I also want to place these characters in each other’s stories, to see how they would act in different scenarios,” Sabo explained.
Eventually, Sabo hopes to bring his stories to live audiences, where he’ll perform with a mix of a band and soundtracks he makes himself. His single comes out on June 7, and will be available on Soundcloud. You can also find him on Instagram, Youtube, or on his website.
All images courtesy of Eran Sabo.
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