Sassy Baron Cohen is set to sound off at the British Library

PUBLISHED: 11:01 19 July 2007 | UPDATED: 14:35 07 September 2010

Erran Baron Cohen

Erran Baron Cohen

ERRAN Baron Cohen is DJing with his Zohar Sound System at the British Library event on July 26. The music has the same influences as his band Zohar – World Fusion Beat Scientists – a fusion of Jewish and Arabic beats, which he says fits well with an eve

ERRAN Baron Cohen is DJing with his Zohar Sound System at the British Library event on July 26.

The music has the same influences as his band Zohar - World Fusion Beat Scientists - a fusion of Jewish and Arabic beats, which he says "fits well" with an evening bringing together Jewish and Muslim poets, musicians and comedians.

"Our albums sample very old recordings of Jewish cantoral stuff, Arabic singing and beats, bringing it all somewhere else," says the Golders Green musician.

"I am Israeli so growing up I heard a lot of Arabic and Jewish music in the Middle East. I was interested in the similarities between the two and the fact that musically they work very naturally together.

"That is a nice positive thought in these times when there is a lot of antagonism between the communities. The music shows the etymology, the essence of that shared cultural heritage, very clearly." Then laughing at his own idealism he adds: "People should realise that and stop fighting."

Baron Cohen is the younger brother of comedian Sasha Baron Cohen and has written music for his comedy projects - Da Ali G Show and the recent film Borat.

Oddly, during the furore over the fictional Kazakhstani reporter Borat, Erran was contacted by the country's virtuoso violinist to write a piece for the Kazakhstani Symphony Orchestra.

It was performed in May and recorded a fortnight ago at the Abbey Road Studios in St John's Wood.

"At first I was a bit sceptical but he was quite a clever guy and realised it could be an interesting story. It was a great opportunity to write for a big symphony, but to make sure it wasn't a joke the music had to be pretty good, so it was more pressurised than normal."

Ironically, the soundtrack for Borat, which was filmed in Romania, used "eclectic" musical influences based on Romany gypsy music.

Baron Cohen had to listen to Kazakhstani folk music before writing the symphony, which used traditional instruments including a two-stringed guitar called a Dombra.

Next up is a US tour with Zohar, playing work from their two albums, 137 and the more recent: Do You Have Faith?

"Do you have faith? Is a question that can be taken in lots of ways and it's an interesting one to ask at this time - faith isn't necessarily a religious thing, you can have it in yourself or in others," he points out.

Brought up in Hampstead Garden Suburb, he has a prodigiously talented family, with a cousin Ash who is a Hollywood film director and another cousin Simon who is a renowned neuropsychologist.

He is tight-lipped about his famous brother, saying only: "we get on" but one of the pair's earliest ventures was a music club in a West Hampstead club called The Moonlight. There was a house band and Erran, who plays trumpet, piano and percussion, was in charge of the singers. Top jazz and funk musicians would play, and Sasha would do comedy sketches.

"It was good fun, but I have never wanted to be an actor or anything like that. Occasionally I did some singing. I don't know why it is we all went into different careers but it's probably a good thing, my mother thinks so.


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