Jewish Telegraph, January 2018
ISRAELI-born singer Sima Galanti may live in Los Angeles now, but her home country is still affecting her career choices.
Sima, who has just released her new single Head Over Heels, is making a documentary about the situation in the Middle East.
The film Broken Wings, named after one of Sima’s songs, is “to inspire a brighter future for both Israeli and Palestinian people and to break down the walls of hate through the universal language of music that connects hearts and opens dialogue,” she told me.
“The musical narrative within Broken Wings reminds us of both the atrocities and horrors of war, and also of how similar we all are at our cores. It teaches us to never lose faith in the universal healing power of the human heart.”
Sima added: “When I decide to do something, I usually dive right in because I strongly believe in my visions.
“So I dived right into it without really knowing the complexity of things, which can be a good thing sometimes, because if I knew how hard it would be, I might have been discouraged.
“It was challenging in many ways. I was making a documentary that also involved original music. I was doing the job of 10 people on my own.
“Usually, when you make a movie there is a team behind it, but it was me and my camera guy.”
Broken Wings features “many amazing Israeli and Palestinian peace and non-violence activists like Ali Abu Awwad, Rabbi Eliyahu McLean, Haj Ibrahim Abu El Hawa Rabbi and many more, as well as musicians who inspire to bridge the gap through positive messages of hope like Naser Musa, Muhammad Jabid Mughrabi, Kobi Farhi, of Israeli band Orphaned Land, and Gabriel Meyer Halevy”.
Sima has started editing the first cut of the film and hopes to have it finished this year.
She has launched a crowdfunding scheme to help her finish the film.
“I can only hope for peace and a better future,” she said, “and do everything that I can to contribute to that vision and to society by inspiring others through my music and my life journey and touch people’s lives and hearts to give them hope to never give up on peace and one another.”
Sima was born in Lod, near Tel Aviv, to Isaac Galanti, who was from Izmir, Turkey, and Lydia Vaknin, of Marrakesh, Morocco.
Her father’s family moved to Israel in 1948, when Isaac was eight-months-old. Lydia’s family moved there in 1960, when she was eight.
“Growing up in Lod wasn’t easy for a girl with big dreams,” Sima said. “Lod is a small, poor Israeli city where Arabs and mainly Jewish immigrants from Arab countries live side-by-side.
“It’s a place with many socio-economic problems — violence, crime and drug-dealers.
“There wasn’t much to do there creatively and socially. We didn’t have a cinema, restaurants or any nightlife. But I did have an amazing group of friends and we spent a lot of time together laughing, hanging out and playing music.
“I was always active and social and I spent a lot of time in Tel Aviv.
“Growing up in Lod forced me to dream even bigger, be creative and thrive to have a better life. It made me stronger, determined, and gave me the courage to never give up on my dreams.”
She credits her older sister Janet with imbuing her with a love of rock music.
“I grew up in a small apartment and my sister and I shared a room, so I was forced to listen to the rock and metal music that she listened to, which, in retrospect, I’m grateful for,” Sima said.
“She introduced me to amazing records and bands like Pearl Jam, AC/DC, Nirvana, Pantera, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, The Doors and many more.
“She also took me to my first rock concert, to see Deep Purple when I was 11. Not bad for my first concert ever, right?
“I also went to school with a kid name Aviv. His parents were artists, painters, sculptors and educators. I loved spending time in their home. I was exposed to poetry, art, classical music and classic rock.
“Aviv was an amazing guitar player, so we spent a lot of time together singing and playing music. He also introduced me to some incredible rock bands.”
Sima started writing poetry and keeping a journal about her experiences just before her teen years, but she didn’t develop her songwriting until she moved to New York City at the age of 20.
“My family thought that I would be back in Israel after two weeks, so it was a sudden shock for them,” she told me.
“All their lives they tried to protect me and keep me safe and here I am, far way from them, in a completely different country and they couldn’t do anything about it. They were scared and heartbroken.”
She added: “My parents supported my singing, acting and piano classes when I was young. I believe that they thought it’s just a hobby and I’m going to grow out of it, but when they realised that it’s more than just a hobby, it was unsafe and scary for them.
“I think they struggled a lot with my life decisions, but now they are more supportive and they accept my choices and the path that I chose for myself.
“Now, they just want me to be happy. I know that they are proud of me and everything that I have accomplished. They love my music and my passion and want me to have great success.”
In New York, Sima trained as an actress with award-winning acting coach Susan Batson, as well as studying with some leading vocal coaches.
“I believe that singing and songwriting is a natural gift that God gave me, but I spent years developing my talents,” she said.
“Songwriting is something that wasn’t as easy in the beginning, as I didn’t initially believe in my writing abilities because English wasn’t my first language.
“So it was harder to express myself in writing, until I started trusting myself and allowed writing to come from my heart. Now writing is the best part of the creative process.
Sima then headed across America and settled in Los Angeles.
“LA is more laid back and chilled,” she smiled. “The weather is amazing most of the time, in contrast to the cold weather in NYC.
“I like the fact that I can get in my car and drive anywhere that I want and feel free. Being in LA feels like taking a mini-vacation, rather than being stuck on the crowded subway with extreme weather.
“Although there is magic in NYC, it’s not a place for everyone. It can be hard, expensive, cold and lonely. But it’s filled with art and creativity and it’s a melting pot of cultures. NYC moulded me to the artist that I am today.”
In 2012, Sima released her debut album This Is My Truth.
She said: “I worked on it for few years when I was living in NYC. It represented my past, accepting myself for who I am, facing my fears, hardships and the times that I felt disconnected and alone.
“It was a glimpse of where I was heading musically and creatively. Completing the record wasn’t an easy thing as I lost a lot through the process of making it, but it was the most significant piece of work and a major healing process.
“I completed the last song for the record in LA and I was ready to start a new life all over again and grow even more as an artist.”
She added: “The single, This Is My Truth, was the first song I ever wrote completely on my own. It represented taking my power back as a woman, taking ownership of my career, my talent, my life and knowing that no matter who I work with or whoever comes into my life, my talent and my visions are mine, given to me by God for a reason.
“It was like things came full circle. I was creating music that was on the same level as the ‘big boys’, the signed bands. People couldn’t deny my talent, my music, hard work and the way I presented myself visually and they started paying attention to my music and the message behind it.
“I wasn’t afraid to be raw and vulnerable and have my voice heard. I was relatable and grounded and people felt like I was expressing what they were going through.”
Two years later, Sima released the EP Beautiful Liar, which features “some of my most ambitious and textured work. It’s very diverse,” she said.
“I took a big step forward in both songwriting and production. I wrote the lyrics and melodies for all the songs on that EP and co-produced it.
“It was an empowering experience and allowed me to overcome my insecurities by once again shading more layers of my old self, my past pain and heartbreaks and realising what I wanted to create in my life.
“I was growing as a woman and expanding spiritually and creatively. I was singing about things that mattered the most to me at that point of my life, which was finding deep and divine love, letting go of things that didn’t serve me anymore and finding a deeper meaning and a purpose to my life — and connecting to the creator.”
Sima, who works on her songs with guitarist Evan Rodaniche, has completed eight tracks for her next album, which has a working title of SIMA.
“I’m testing the waters first with Head Over Heels,” she said. “The song is about being in love. About finding that special someone who you can’t get out of your mind, someone who you can trust to be by your side no matter what.
“It talks about how sometimes in life we give up on love because we get hurt so many times that we become numb to it and forget how it feels to be in that vibration, to be in love head over heels with someone, until you finally meet that special person that changes all that and brings you back to life.”
Sima — who hopes to “meet the love of my life and have a family one day” — bought her brother, Shay his first camera eight years ago.
And he is paying her back by taking her publicity photographs.
“I realised that he has an amazing talent and a great eye for photography and he really turned out to be an amazing artist,” she said.
“I always trust my brother to capture my visions. For every photo shoot that we did together, there was a specific concept and every little detail is important to the story that we want to pass on.
“It’s always about showing another layer of who I am as an artist, a woman and my passion.
“That’s why I love art so much. Sometimes I don’t even need to speak about it. I can present it to people as a visual concept, a story and a song”
On the acting front, Sima appears in the film Tzeva Adom (The Colour Red), which has been accepted into the 2018 San Diego Jewish Film Festival, as well as the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival.
The film, according to Sima, “explores the lives of two families on the opposite sides of a conflicted border and is about the sacrifices one makes for their children, how social media impacts and influences our daily dialogue and how abstinence often interferes with what’s best”.
Sima is forthright on the issue of musicians who boycott Israel. She told me: “I believe that you can pass your message and start a dialogue on important issues, without boycotting and punishing a whole country.
“If anything, music is a great tool to bridge gaps and bring people together. It’s a universal language that can be much more effective than words and boycotts — and artists have a great platform to do that; they can be the ones who inspire that in a positive way.”
nWatch the video for Head Over Heels at tinyurl.com/SimaHoH