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Individuals of all economic strata are shedding their jobs, hometowns, and lifestyle to embrace a wider experience and a more meaningful existence.

Michal Elia Kamal

Michal Elia KamalMichal Elia Kamal is a singer and song writer who grew up in Israel, born in Tel Aviv into a family of Iranian descent. Her father is from Tehran and her mother from Isfahan. The lead singer for a band called Light in Babylon much of her work presents sacred Hebrew texts, prayers and spirituals in a unique and utterly modern context side by side with her own original compositions. Her main musical influences are mostly Iranian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean music.

She has been living for the last five years in Istanbul, Turkey and it was there her project Light in Babylon came into fruition with herself as the lead singer.

Michal has performed internationally at festivals and in concerts in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Finland, Greece, France, Czech Republic, Romania, India, Turkey as well as several other countries.

According to Michal there are two reasons why they chose the name Light in Babylon as their band name. In her own words:

"Our first stage was the street. On the street, people are walking home, going to or back from work, nobody looks, and nobody smiles. The moment you put music on the street it makes people stop to listen, to smile, to cry, to dance and to communicate with each other."

"Babylon is a name for the system that forces us to look only in one direction. At the moment you put any kind of art in the system you create light, making the people also look into a different direction."

"The second reason is the story about the Tower of Babel, a time when cultures were separated and people started to speak different languages. Moreover, in our band we are from different places and speak different languages, but, despite of that, we have a common culture and language - which is music."

Michal Elia KamalWhen Michal speaks of the street they first played on, it was Istiklal Caddesi in Istanbul. Istiklal is in the city center and has always been full of life and frequented by the young, modern and hip Turkish. But even so, it was a center of material and hip culture which is the epitome of urban city life - pretty much devoid of the benefits of nature.

"Istanbul is a big center for music, especially for the Middle East. You can find a concert every night, from jazz to Gypsy music, passing through flamenco, reggae, Turkish pop rock, Indian classical music and more."

"Being part of this cultural hybrid makes you lose yourself and find yourself each day over and over again. Istanbul is a very special meeting point of East and West - you can see it also within tourism, for example: you see tourists from Europe, America, Australia and also from Dubai, Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon. All these people, cultures and art is a great thing and I'm very thankful for being part of it."

"But, Istanbul is a very big city with around 20 million people, and this extracts its price from you with the pollution, the noise, the crudeness, so mainly I miss nature, forests, trees, parks. For example, there is the sea here which is very beautiful to look at, but the water is not so good for swimming."

Their project, Light in Babylon, is the fusion of different ethnicities and cultures, Michal is Israeli from Iranian origin, the santur player Metehan Cifici is Turkish, the guitarist Julien Demarque is French and they cooperate with musicians from different origin as well (Turkish, English and more).

With the strength and openness of their youthful thinking and the various musical influences they have, they intuitively created a original colorful blend of their inner voices with flavours that would carry the imagination to travel through the Middle east and beyond.

Michal Elia KamalAbout a month ago, Michal received a package which was sent to her from Istanbul by the amazing fashion designer, Erkan Demiroğlu. According to Michal "He sent me this wonderful dress he had designed, on the dress there are printed beautiful birds, and Erkan wrote me a note, asking me to sing my songs with his birds."

"There are a few things I am crazy about: good vegan food, good music and a BEAUTIFUL DRESS!"

She responded to his kind gesture as follows: "Erkan, it is an honor and a pleasure for me to wear art while doing art..."

Singer and lyricist Michal Elia Kamal along with Metehan Cifici on the santour and guitarist Julien Demarque make up the core of the band Light in Babylon. They met in Istanbul back in 2010 where they toiled away in one of Istanbul's most popular districts honing their craft and establishing their unique multicultural sound.

By 2013, they had recorded their first album Life Sometimes Doesn't Give You Space and followed it up with another release called Yeni Dunya in 2016. Fortunately throughout this entire period, their modest success followed and today the band, along with the support of percussionist Stuart Dickson and bassist Jack Butler, tour across Europe, bringing their unique music to new audiences everywhere.

Light in Babylon's spiritual leader is Michal Elia Kamel. Her story alone makes for a fascinating tale. She is an Israeli with Iranian origins and in possession of an engaging positive outlook on life.

Often referred to as ambassadors of peace - the moniker is appropriate:

"To be called ambassadors of peace is indeed a big compliment for us. I believe it even describes one of the reasons we do music and the way we observe people and the world around us."

Michal Elia Kamal"We have fans from all kinds of countries, from different religious and cultures, and often people are asking us - how is it even possible..? But for us it is very clear, we always have called our music, world music. We see ourselves as people of the world, and our message is that before all labels of nationality, culture, religion and language, we are first of all humans - and when we remember that we will remember to respect each other."

"Our first stage as was the street - busking to the eclectic masses of Istanbul. It was quite an apprenticeship to have begun with."

"We performed on Istiklal Caddesi (street) in our first years as a band and I must say that Istiklal street is not just a street, not like just any street, but a very special place. In that time in 2012 it was a place where people who went there where searching for something."

"Something to happen - some music or art. It was a place of diversity, different people, different cultures, religions and opinions. All these different people walking there and listening to our music and feeling something. The reaction of these people was amazing - they wanted to get close, they would cry, or smile, or dance."

"To put something like our music in the middle of someones day, just like that - live with no boundaries, creates a strong impact and touches the listeners deeply."

"But not only them, it did the same to us and we learned a lot from it - how to understand people, how to respect people, and how to be modest and humble."

"Now that we have become more famous and are playing on all kinds of big stages, we still remember what we learned from our time playing on Istiklal street."

"Of course we are no longer able anymore to play on Istiklal, or any other street. Back then we did it for some time and it gave us so much but since then we have moved forward to the next step."

Michal Elia Kamal"Just passing by on Istiklal street today takes lots of time as people still ask for photos - which we are always happy to meet. Having a performance there would create a mess and also in general many things have changed in this place since our time performing there."

"But we were hoping to inspire new young musicians to continue this culture and go out there and share their music."

"These days we feel ourselves to be very lucky to have such an amazing number of people listening to our music. After each of our concerts we always take time and invite the audience to meet us for some photos, signatures and cd's."

"It gives us the time to see our audience eye to eye, even if it is crowded and takes quite a long time, we always stay until the last person. I love doing this because for me it is the best part of the concert."

"It gives me lots of hope to meet so many people with open hearts and open minds - people who still believe in people and have hope and spark in the eyes like me. It doesn't matter if it's in Europe or in another place, people who listen to our music always react the same and the warm part of them comes out."

"We believe that music is not only for entertainment, not only for passing the time - music has a meaning and an impact on our lives. Light in Babylon brings not only music but also emotion, in a world where peoples need more and more to hide their emotion, where television become more cynical and the pop music more artificial."

"People are hungry for something real, they want not only to hear music but also to feel it! The music we make says something, there is something honest in it - it's full of hope."

"Many things influenced me musically - not necessarily one specific type of music but a mix of music, cultures and ideas. I grew up in a home where women's power is something very important and I think you can feel this in my way of singing and in my voice."

Michal Elia Kamal"Both of my parents were born and grew up in Iran, so the Persian culture and the music from home affected me as well."

"Our band was formed in Istanbul - and Istanbul is a very special place for us, and it will always be - it is a city with a lot of intense feelings, there is something old as well as something new, some sadness but with a beauty within, some joy with energy and people and it has lots of movement. In a way, we can describe our music much the same as we just described Istanbul."

"Music can do many things and can connect many people, but I believe that music carries within it some energy and it is very important where the music comes from and for what purpose."

"When you turn on the radio and hear a commercial there is also music in the commercial, it can be very nice music, but the purpose of that music in the commercial is to manipulate you into buying something."

"When we all met each other in the band, music connected us all but for this to be happening we had to have something clean inside, something naïve, we needed to want to be connected and to communicate. Only because of this we could create something like our music that will help others connect and feel too."

"Our music reflects the way we see the world and the way we change with the world according to the places and the people we meet - as well as influences us according to the things that happened in our lives and our dreams."

"We always say we are a dreamers - we even did our own version of the song Imagine by John Lennon. In our music there are many messages but we are not telling people what to do or how to live but instead are sharing our own stories and dreams to let them travel among many people far beyond us."

"For example, I am Israeli and I write my songs mostly in Hebrew. I have an Israeli passport so there are many countries I am not allowed to enter (Tunisia, Bangladesh, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Malesia, Saudi Arabia and others.) My physical body cannot go there, but my voice can fly far away to all of these places."

Michal Elia Kamal"People are listening to our music and writing me from many countries I cannot physically visit. They are writing me how much power it gave them, that our music helped them to come through difficult times, or helped them to understand many things. Music can travel - music has no borders."

"To have your own music, in a way, is like having a child, so the people you make music with are the people who are, in a manner of speaking, raising this child with you so they must be like your family. Myself, Julien and Mete started this band known today as Light in Babylon and along the way Jack Bulter the bassist and Stuart Dickson the percussionist joined us."

"We all lived and met in the Beyoglu district in Istanbul, around the area of Taksim square and Istiklal Caddessi, we all know these places very well - and their music scenes - they were our main 'playground'. In a way I feel that these guys can understand me, I feel like they are the guys from my neighborhood."

"Honestly I can say that each and every one of them is a great man. Some men feel threatened by powerful women or find it hard for themselves to contain this kind of energy in music. But I feel very lucky to make music with not only very good musicians but also with very good and supportive human beings."

"I already had the idea to make the video clip for the song Kipur in Cappadocia for a few years in the back of my mind. I was simply waiting for the right moment and the right opportunity."

Kipur is a very special and spiritual song. The lyrics are from a poem by Solomon Ibn Gabirol, a philosopher from the 11th century, Spain."

"The poem is about freedom, spiritual freedom, the ability to understand the nothing and the everything in the universe and within. Cappadocia gives me this feeling, special feeling of something free, but something very settled like those big pointy rocks."

Michal Elia KamalEditor note* Cappadocia is a semi-arid region in central Turkey known for its distinctive fairy chimneys - tall, cone-shaped rock formations clustered in Monks Valley, Göreme and elsewhere. Other notables sites include Bronze Age homes carved into valley walls by cave dwellers and later used as places of refuge by early Christians.

Light in Babylon's album's Yeni Dunya and Life Sometimes Doesn't Give You Space are both available via cdbaby and iTunes. You can connect with Light in Babylon via their Facebook page or twitter feed @LightinBabylon. You can also visit or contact with Light in Babylon via their website. Follow them on Instagram. Watch them on You Tube.

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Kipur - Light in Babylon

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